Friday, February 26, 2010

The Lezzy Awards

Hello readers,

You may have noticed by the button on my sidebar (that sounds dirty), that Fannie's Room is a finalist in the feminist/political category of the Lesbian Lifestyle's Lezzy Awards.

Now, I don't put very much effort into promoting my blog or entering awards contests, mostly because this is a one-woman operation and I don't have the time. So thank you to those of you who (a) nominated me into the finals, and (b) have took the time to vote for my blog.

I'm honored to be in the same category as the much more popular feminist venue, Feministing. And, this contest introduced me to feminist/political blog Dear Diaspora, also a finalist, where I look forward to perusing posts about gender.

So, thank you to everyone who has nominated/voted for my blog and, even though Fannie's Room is a completely commercial-free zone, I do appreciate those who stop by to comment and read.

And yes, I checked out my blog counter stats last week, so I know that most you are lurkers! Leftist Gender Warriors says, "De-lurk, I say, and share your thoughts or say hello! Let the random, non-sequitur, open comment day begin."


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Washington Archdiocese Chooses Discrimination Over Foster Kids

Back in November, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington threatened to stop taking taxpayer money to provide social services if DC's same-sex marriage law passed.

Despite this threat, the law passed.

Making good on its promise, the Washington Archdiocese has recently chosen to get rid of its foster care program, because the same-sex marriage law requires contractors with DC to facilitate adoption of foster care children to same-sex couples.

So, those are the facts. The Catholic Archdiocese was receiving money through a contract with DC and, rather than potentially facilitating adoptions to same-sex couples, it chose to transfer it foster care program to another agency.

Let's see how some are reporting this situation:

"Forced to support homosexual couples, Washington archdiocese ends foster care."

Bzzzt, wrong. Nobody forced the Washington Archdiocese to do anything.

"After warning for months that the District's pending same-sex marriage law — slated to go into effect March 2 — put its 80-year-old foster care program in jeopardy, the Archdiocese of Washington formally ended its program February 1."

It was less that the "same-sex marriage law" put the Archdiocese's foster care program in jeopardy and more that the Catholic position on marriage and the morality of same-sex parenting put the program in jeopardy.

"The Archdiocese of Washington: not a victim, but a bully"

Actually, that one's pretty accurate.

The Archdiocese sought the special right to discriminate against LGBT people and still receive public funds. Given that the Catholic position is that god, rather than the state, has jurisdiction over marriage, family, and parenthood anyway, I am confident they will find their loss of secular funding in these areas to be non-problematic.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feminism's Fun New Brand!

Sometimes, my Google Alert for "feminism" sends me the darndest things. In addition to regularly including "men's rights" blogposts informing the world that Men Are Very Angry And Feminism Is A Failed Little Experiment That Has Nonetheless Managed To Ruin Everything, I occasionally receive bizarre articles like this one, in which a dude college student explains that he's a "self-identified feminist who enjoys watching gang-bang porn."


I also want to note that the dude does not elaborate upon his definition of "gang-bang porn," particularly with respect to whether he likes watching the consensual or fake non-consensual gang-bang types, and really, is there a difference given that Wikipedia's surprisingly-NSFW-entry implies that the default "gang-bang" involves multiple men using a woman's body for its historical, eroticized, and rewarded purpose of passive penile ejaculation aid.

Now, I also know that some feminists take a more sex-positive view when a woman exercises her sexual agency to have sex for pay. I hesitate to open that can o' worms today, as I am not an expert on the feminist porn debate. But, at the risk of being inundated with comments telling me that I'm a "not the fun kind" of feminist, I will take a peek inside.

The portrayal of women as sex objects is a key component of rape culture, but to some, to restrict a woman's sexual agency is also a creepy convergence with conservatives and religionists who aim to restrict human sexuality, especially the sexuality of women, and turn it into something "bad" that needs to be controlled. Women are making a choice, it is said, to participate in porn, and feminism is grounded in the idea that women should have agency and choice.

And, while I certainly agree that women should have agency, the million-dollar question is whether such porn-participating agency truly exists in a patriarchal society.

An analogy comes to mind.

Researchers and medical ethicists know that any study that uses financial incentives can be coercive to persons who are poor. One of the reasons we cannot legally choose to sell our organs in the US, furthermore, is because it is believed that such a policy would exploit the poor by coercing them into participating. The idea is that a poor person's "choice" to sell their organs is deemed to be less voluntary than a well-off person who, it is assumed, would be selling their organs solely for altruistic reasons as they don't "need" the money. Thus, even though a poor person could very well have altruistic motives, it is presumed that those who are not financially stable would be coerced and more likely to sell their organs than the rich. Only the rich have the privilege of exercising agency over their bodies without having to think about or be lured in by financial remuneration.

Here, I believe, could be the existence of an analogy with respect to women who choose to participate in porn. Of course, we have the surface-level argument that financially poor women (and men) are more likely to be coerced into commodifying their bodies for porn purposes than are more well-off people. But also, if we accept as true that women in our society are highly rewarded with patriarchal pats on the head for demonstrating appropriate submission to male sexual control and authority, I question whether a woman who "chooses" to participate in the ultimate act of sexual submission and inequality- having her every orifice simultaneously penetrated by penises for movie-making purposes- has truly made a completely free choice. Or, as Twisty has written:

"The idea that women’s public sexuality can so precisely mirror traditional male fantasy while simultaneously existing in a kind of pro-woman, I-do-it-for-myself alternate universe is the cornerstone of funfeminist 'thought.' The flaw in this reasoning is that all women must participate in patriarchy regardless of what they say motivates their participation; patriarchy is the dominant culture, and there is no opting out. Which means there is no opting in, either. Do it for me, do it for you, whatever; the primary beneficiaries of women’s participation — willing or unwilling, ironic or sincere — in patriarchy, are men."

Being in favor of women's sexual agency is a distinct issue from whether or not that agency is possible in a patriarchal society. After all, those patriarchal head pats land on all of our heads, not just those of the usual Concerned Women suspects.

Or, as the article explains of the dude college student:

"His interests in non-normative sexual and lifestyle exploration led Charles to invest in the work of contemporary feminism."

Seems to me that it should be a given that gang-bang porn for dudes is a counterproductive marketing tool for feminism.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Manhattan Declaration Signees Go After Lawmakers

Not too long ago, we saw how the group of Christian heterosexual (mostly) males got together to create the Manhattan Declaration Mansplanation, whereby we were all informed that it is "god's" ultimate truth that abortion and same-sex marriage are wrong.

Because really, is there anything more appropriate and resonating in this world than a group of straight men totally blaming same-sex marriage and abortion for all of the world's social ills? Perhaps imbued as they are with the powers of manly, Christian objectivity and truth, they're just telling it like it is. And also, they might have mentioned a few times how so very awesome and brave they are for cheaply opposing issues that uniquely affect the rights of women and LGBT people.

Nonetheless, buzz surrounding this declaration seemed to die down rather quickly, and I can't say I was sad about that. I thought, heck, maybe they had finally come to their senses and started pointing their long fingers back at themselves and begun contemplating their complicity in the oppression of (at least) half the human population. But alas, no such luck. Everything's still going to hell in a handbasket, they tell us, and only they can heroically lead us on a different course, by denying women and LGBT people rights of course!

In fact, church leaders in Kentucky are now demanding their state lawmakers to respond to and sign the declaration:

[Herschel] York [a Kentucky pastor] urged all who were present—lawmakers especially—to sign a notebook affirming a 'Kentucky Statement of Solidarity' in accordance with the Manhattan Declaration.

It called on signatories to unite with 'like-minded Christians throughout the United States and the Commonwealth of Kentucky in proclaiming our dedication to values that cannot be violated without dire consequences to our society.'"

That "our society" in the last sentence is interesting, isn't it? Clearly, it's their society and everyone else is just living in it, fucking it up with our false and immoral ways. That's not to say that same-sex marriage and abortion rights won't and don't have "consequences" to the Manhattan Declaration signees' patriarchy-loving society, it's just that these consequences are only "dire" with respect to that old-fashioned notion of male superiority and primacy in the world.

In an utterly frightening authoritarian statement, state Senator Katie Stine (R) echoed the sentiment that these conservative Christians are privy to the One And Only True truth and that our laws should reflect that truth:

"We must stand for truth and liberty, recognizing that our fundamental rights are given to us not by government, but by God."

Looks like somebody's trying to establish a religion. Or, rather two religions. Conservative Christianity and, given which classes of persons this sect mandates we worship, the ideology of male supremacy. And really, is there a difference?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Riane Eisler Quote of the Week- The World's Woman Problem

From The Chalice and the Blade:

"[T]hose who would reimpose strongman rule over both women and men see so-called women's issues like reproductive freedom of choice and equal rights under the law as primary issues. Indeed, if we look at rightist actions- from the American New Right to their counterparts in both West and East- we see that to them the return of women to their traditional subservient place is a top priority."

The similarities between the fundamentalist Christianity insistence that men and women have clearly-defined, separate, and complementary roles in life wherein the women is subservient to the man, is indeed similar to that of the fundamentalist Muslim or Orthodox Jew.

Still, Eisler doesn't let the Left off the hook. Continuing on:

"Yet ironically, for the majority of those committed to the ideals like progress, equality, and peace, the connection between 'women's issues' and the attainment of progressive goals remains invisible. For liberals, socialists, communists, and others from middle to left the liberation of women is a secondary or peripheral issue- to be addressed, if at all, after the 'more important' problems facing our globe have been resolved."

Unfortunately, too many on the left still don't "get" that when the "basic model" of male-female relations is built upon domination-subordination, a strong dominator mentality is internalized and carried over to form hierarchies and Others in all human relations. That's why religionists and atheists who get into those "Which ideology has been responsible for the most killings in the history of the world, religion or atheism?" debates are missing the point.

The solution isn't for society to collectively determine whether religion or atheism is "worse" so as to eradicate one or the other ideology, but to prioritize freeing women from our man-made role in life as the Second Sex. This will involve the radical notion that it's the responsibility of more than just Western feminists to solve all of the worlds "women's issues."

See also, Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, a contemplation of a gender-less society devoid of the dominator model of human relations.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Nancy Elliot's Bizarre Statements

You may have heard that last week New Hampshire state legislator Nancy Elliot claimed that, as part of classroom instruction, grade school students were being shown pictures of naked men and taught how to engage in anal sex. Her words exactly, were:

"I heard yesterday from a mother that in fifth grade in Nashua, they were given as part of their classroom instruction naked pictures of two men showing a presentation of anal sex.... Because we have made a marriage of same sex, they are now teaching it in public school. They are showing our fifth-graders how they can actually perform this kind of sex."

Elliot made this statement during a hearing on the proposed bill that would repeal same-sex marriage since, saying that this teaching of gay sex was the result of legalized same-sex marriage. Now, while "marriage defenders" tend to parrot this prediction of great harm whenever the pros and cons of same-sex marriage are debated, it is much more rare for them to claim that it has actually already happened.

Not surprisingly, it turns out that her statement was a lie. Indeed, her exact words a few days later were:

"I would like to apologize to Judiciary Committee, the Nashua public schools and its employees and the speaker as well as anyone else affected by what I said. I will try much harder in the future to verify fully my statement....I found that I could not confirm the accuracy of the information."

As sickening as it was that this public official didn't originally "try hard" to verify her facts before making a statement that could be so potentially damaging to LGBT rights, I do commend her for doing what so many others on her side fail to do. Namely, to correct themselves and apologize for spreading lies and dishonest propaganda.

Unfortunately, I predict that some anti-gay groups, individuals, and bloggers will still latch onto Elliot's original untrue statement and use it as "proof" that same-sex marriage harms children. Of course, just as Elliot failed to do, they won't actually complain to the police, schools, or school district about this fake incident that they'll tell all of their followers really happened. Nope. They'll just continue using this fake incident to promote their goal of opposing marriage equality, rather than taking steps that would actually stop children from being exposed to pornography in school since, of course, they can't "stop" something that isn't happening.

Amusingly demonstrating a vivid, if clumsy, imagination and deep thoughts about anal sex between two men, Elliot preceded her lie by saying this:

"We’re talking about taking a penis of one man and putting it in the rectum of another man and wiggling it around in excrement and I have to think, 'Would I allow this to be done to me?' "

A fellow legislator called Elliot's statement "totally inappropriate," which of course makes it highly ironic that the woman who wrongly accused others of inappropriately teaching gay sex to others was the one who actually inappropriately tried to teach gay sex to others.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Average Joe Fails To See Rape Culture, Doesn't Like "Tone" of Women Who Do

[Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault]

Over at her situs in hell, PF posted one of those Rape Prevention lists that "explains" what makes women particularly "easy targets" for sexual assault. Because this list excluded the single most important "tip" that it's the presence of a rapist that makes women "easy targets" for sexual assault, PF rightly took issue with much of the victim-blamey advice.

However, commenter Joe, an 18-year-old self-described "liberal atheist," confidently declared PF's response to the Rape Prevention list "the stupidest post" he'd ever read of hers. Joe, like the fellows at Ed Brayton's blog who mansplained breast ogling to be non-problematic for women, then informed us that much of the the Rape Prevention list was actually "pretty darn reasonable" from his Totally Objective Male Viewpoint. He then took issue with PF's tone, asking aloud "what the hell spawned this sort of angry nonsense?" and said that PF's reaction was "much worse" than the Rape Prevention list itself.

Here, I feel compelled to note that I am completely open to the possibility that Joe has some sort of special insight into the experience of living in the world as a woman that would lend credence to his position as the Decider Of Things That Women Get To Be Angry About. But, I would be interested in knowing what, exactly, his credentials, qualifications, and/or life experiences are that he believes sufficiently outweigh the lived experiences of women who live, read, and/or write about this stuff on a near daily basis.

See, I would guess that it isn't so much that Joe hates women or is pro-rape, at least on any conscious level, but rather like the figurative Average Joe of North American mythology, I would opine that he's ignorant about the concept of Rape Culture, which causes him to deny its existence without him even realizing it.

Continuing on, Joe demonstrates both by what he chooses to write about on his own blog and by his next comment, that he does not have a particularly strong interest in feminism or so-called women's issues, despite his "liberal atheist" cred. In response to a commenter who aptly suggested that Joe should read my post on "mansplaining," Joe informed that he has visited my blog but doesn't have an interest in "following" it. Which is fine, but his reasoning struck me as a bit insincere. This fellow who informed PF that she wrote a particularly "stupid" post comprised of "nonsense" explained that he not only disagrees with "a decent amount" of what I write but also that he finds the "tone" of my blog "rudely condescending and patronizing at times."

Now, I'm also open to the idea that my "tone" is "rudely condescending and patronizing at times." Over the course of my blogging days, I've been known to be Not Perfect. However, without specific example, I will take such an amorphous non-specific criticism about my "tone," an inherently subjective determination anyway, with a grain of salt. Despite my status as Lady Blogger, I do not feel compelled to offer corrective behavior, giggles, and profound apologies in response to such vague critiques.

Furthermore, with all due respect, neither am I of the opinion that ignorance, especially ignorance with respect to Rape Culture, should be coddled as though it's a legitimate point of view. And, unfortunately, men who one might expect to be natural allies to feminist concerns often are not. For, it's an inconvenient truth that liberalism and atheism as political movements have a Woman Problem and that, quite frankly, is one of their very large failings, whether it is deemed important enough to address or not.

So, as a liberal-ish, non-religious-ish feminist blogger who reads a wide variety of liberal and conservative blogs, I have two observations related to Rape Culture, Joe's comment, and Rape Prevention lists. The first is regarding that ever-amorphous concept of a blog's "tone." See, many liberals regularly render extremely hostile verbal and personal attacks against Christians and conservatives (just as many conservatives do the same to liberals). And, not surprisingly, when I visited Joe's blog, I quickly surmised that he is not quite the paragon of civility that one might think he would be, given that he claims not to follow my blog because he is turned off by its "tone."

Of Christians and conservative types, he refers to them as "idiotic," "kooks and cranks," and "inbred bigots." One post of his mocked a couple's looks as "hideous." Thusly does it seem that it is less my "tone" that Joe takes issue with, and more my content, as Joe appears to be quite comfortable with "condescending and patronizing," at least when he's on the dishing-it-out end of things.

Two, I also know that when women merely stand up for themselves and for other women, their behavior is often exaggerated as being hostile and aggressive. When they go on to show actual anger, people deem it to be- as Joe did- "much worse" than whatever it is that the woman is angry about. In fact, whenever women point out sexism and misogyny and are not sufficiently demure about it- which of course, if they are pointing out sexism and misogyny at all, is never- men who have no problems calling conservative Christians asshats, fuckwads, and douchnozzles will nonetheless clutch their pearls and cry that women are being sexist against men, are aggressive, are bitchy, or otherwise need to "check their tone." Meanwhile, their own hostile "tone" goes unchecked.

And these two observations together constitute our first lesson in Rape Culture: Men are entitled to aggression; female boundary-setting is "wrong" because it's "aggressive" and under no circumstances may a woman show anger. In short, men and boys are culturally entitled to force, violence, and anger, while women and girls who display the same traits, even in diluted quantities, are branded pathologically un-feminine.

Lesson number two: Because men are entitled to aggression, Rape Culture places the onus for preventing rape on victims, who must vigilantly limit and monitor their every daily activity, rather than on those in the class of persons who are most often perpetrators- men. If we look at many Rape Prevention lists, they ignore the elephant in the room. Namely, the one common denominator in every rape, despite everything women are and are not doing to "prevent" such an assault, is the presence of the rapist. Just as articles about rapes tend to hide the perpetrator in the passive voice, as though women Get Themselves Raped rather than the fact that it is men, usually, who rape them, these lists focus on what women should be doing in order to Not Get Raped, rather than on what men should be doing to not rape people or on how our culture encourages the violation of women's boundaries.

And yes, the "tips" themselves are often commonsensical. That's not the issue. For instance: Be aware of your surroundings? Duh. Women don't need their intelligence insulted with statements of the obvious, they need a society that collectively teaches men to respect other people's boundaries. And, they need to live in a society where they can set and enforce boundaries without men, or other women, calling them unladylike bitches. One tangible and more meaningful step a college could take than printing a Rape Prevention tipsheet? Requiring all students to attend a sexual violence education program that made it clear that sexual violence is unacceptable, is never justified, and is a Big Deal.

Lesson #3 in Rape Culture: It's okay to expect women to restrict their lives to an absurd degree so as to not get raped (oh, by a man), because men are entitled to move in this world like full human beings and women are not.

For instance, another tip:

"DON'T be walking alone in an alley, or driving in a bad neighborhood at night."

Yes, but what if a woman lives in a "bad neighborhood" and cannot afford to live in a "good neighborhood"? I have a better idea. How about we encourage men not to walk in alleys and "bad neighborhoods at night" since they are more "at risk" of raping somebody. That would certainly make me feel safer. Another tidbit:

"If you are walking alone in the dark (which you shouldn't be) and you find him following/chasing you..."

So, women should never walk alone in the dark? Ever. I walk alone in the dark every single day of the year, as many women do. Since I don't follow this rule, should I get raped a man rape me, I would know that it would not be my fault. But, in how many ways, by how many implications, would others tell me that it was *sort of really* my fault because I knew the risk I was taking by walking alone as a woman at night like how people get to walk alone at night?

And yes, men are also sometimes victims of assault and it's a good idea for everyone be aware of one's surroundings. But that argument ignores the fact that the experiences of men and women are different in Rape Culture. A good flip-flop comparison would be to imagine a world in which women routinely kicked men in the balls really hard for no reason at all, so much so that men wore protective cups on their genitals at all times and, if they didn't, they knew full well what they were asking for. One wonders, how would men react if the ball-kicking led to the formation of Ball-Kicking Prevention Tips that advised men to never walk alone at night, to avoid dangerous neighborhoods (especially where groups of women congregated), and blamed men for Getting Their Balls Kicked if they chose to move in the world like how people got to move?

It's not so much that the tips are not useful. Some of them are. But wouldn't the men rightly be angry about living in a culture that seemed to focus more on all the ways men could limit their lives to avoid getting kicked in the nuts, as opposed to how we could make women feel less entitled to attack men in the first place?

Instead, women live in a culture where: (a) Men receive many messages that to be aggressive is to be a Real Man, (b) Women receive messages that their boundaries don't matter, and (c) Rather than questioning the male entitlement to aggression, women are instructed to remain ever-vigilant and to limit their movement in the world because a rapist is lurking around every dark corner, but that we shouldn't think any given man could be a rapist because that's "anti-male," but also to be careful because "not all rapists look like rapists."

Welcome to Rape Culture, Joe.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Artificial Gender Distinctions in Sports

While reading this article, critiquing a guy who argued that women's hockey should be banned from the Olympics because a few countries tend to dominate the other teams, I came across an interesting distinction between women's and men's hockey. Namely, that unlike in the men's game, women's hockey does not allow body checking. For the non-sporty readers out there, "body checking" is when a player uses her or his body "to knock an opponent against the boards or to the ice."

I don't watch or play hockey myself, which perhaps makes me a sporty heretic during this particular time of year, but I thought this distinction was interesting. I have several thoughts about it.

For one, the distinction highlights how sports culture entitles men and boys to violence and aggression, and does not always extend this entitlement to girls and women.

Two, sports culture seems to have an obsession with making women's versions of the same sport different than male versions. These differences sometimes have logical reasons, but oftentimes the differences are the result of gender stereotyping. For instance, in basketball, having women use a smaller ball would make sense, given that women tend to have smaller hands than men. However, banning body checking in women's hockey but not in men's seems to rest in that age-old idea that men and boys are naturally tough and strong, in contrast to girls and women, who are naturally frail and weak.

This distinction is similar to (a) the artificial boys-play-baseball but girls-play-softball division, (b) the way female runners often have to run shorter distances than boys do in cross country running, even though the female body is better suited to long-distance running, and (c) they way professional female tennis players play fewer sets than men do in Grand Slam tournaments.

Although I don't think there is some vast conspiracy plotting to keep the female athlete down, these illogical and artificial distinctions do prevent accurate comparisons from being made between female and male athletes within the same sport, which results in the inability to test assumptions about Inherent Male Superiority In All Things. After a time, one can start to wonder if some folks fear an entire house of assumptions falling down if these comparisons could be made.

However, four, given that body checking is physically dangerous, I'm not necessarily in favor of it. Yes, perhaps that would destroy the fun of hockey, but it's interesting that sports culture only seems to care about the harms of body checking with respect to females, effectively saying that males getting concussions is entirely okay. As seen from the health effects of football, the way masculinity is constructed is that to be a Real Man is to mean being tough, aggressive and strong. While there are certainly privileges the flow from that, it also means that Real Men are expendable cannon fodder for some larger end. In this case, entertainment.

And also, to the man who argued that women's hockey should be banned from the Olympics because there aren't enough good women's teams to make things competitive: Women have been fighting for hundreds of years to be able to participate in the Olympics and have only gotten to do so in small, sport-by-sport increments during the mid-to-late 20th century. We shouldn't penalize women who are privileged enough to live in countries that support female athletic opportunity just because many countries in the world do not do adequately do so.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Review: The Church and the Second Sex

My biggest take-away upon re-reading feminist theologian Mary Daly's The Church and the Second Sex was how tame her critiques therein were regarding the Catholic Church. The Daly of 1968, when The Church and the Second Sex was first published, was not the Daly of 1973, when her more radical Beyond God the Father was published. So, to read the 1985 Beacon Press edition of The Church and the Second Sex, which includes both Daly's 1975 preface and her 1985 afterword, is to observe Daly's progression from a theologian who once believed Christian reformation to be a desirable aim to a "Post-Christian Feminist" theologian who believed Christianity to be too damaged, too flawed, to bother reforming at all.

1) Mary Daly the Daly Critic

Perhaps even more than the content of The Church and the Second Sex, which renders many valid critiques of the Catholic Church, I particularly enjoyed reading Daly's critiques and observations of her own past entrapment in patriarchal thinking. In short, her progression to radical seems to have come from a place of disappointment, both at her own naivete in believing that the Catholic Church might one day address its own sexism and misogyny in a serious manner and at the fact that it has failed to do so.

In her 1975 introduction, Daly recalls not having access to feminist thought, certainly not to the extent that we do in 2010, and the lack of "a more adequate vocabulary" with which to critique the Church. For instance, throughout her 1968 Church and the Second Sex, she uses "'man' and 'he' as though they are generic terms" and uses "they" instead of "we" in reference to women (15-16). The 1975 Daly found this usage of the so-called generic masculine "annoying," but understood the importance of the terms in order to render an appearance of "detachment and objectivity" (16). Marking her further progression into the radical rejection of all things Catholic, in Daly's 1985 afterword, she has stopped capitalizing Catholic, Church, the Christian god, and the names and titles of Christian leaders, presumably to indicate a lack of reverence for these institutions and figures.

2) Mary Daly the Church Critic

Daly begins The Church and the Second Sex with French feminist Simone de Beauvoir's understated criticism of Christianity:

"Christian ideology has contributed no little to the oppression of woman."

Daly then devotes much of her book to examining how the Catholic Church "pretends to put woman on a pedestal but which in reality prevents her from genuine self-fulfillment and from active, adult-sized participation in society" (53). Christianity, she argues, is a "record of contradictions" wherein "every human person" is said to have equal worth, but which in reality places women on a degrading pseudo-pedestal that serves as a "substitute for recognition of full personhood and equal rights" (74). Putting women on am alleged pedestal, she argues, is the Church's way of heralding women, it is a way to give the appearance of equal rights without actually having to support equal rights.

Not surprisingly, Daly notes the sexism in the Pauline texts to support the argument that the "social inferiority of women was, indeed, reflected in the New Testament" (80). Here, she cites the I Corinthians notion that "man is 'the image and glory of God,' whereas woman is 'the glory of man,'" the Adam and Eve myth whereby "Adam was formed first, then Eve," and Paul's idea that women should not speak in church or unveil their heads (80-81).

In her 1975 introduction, Daly addressed her critics who argued that she cherry-picked sexist quotes to support her argument. Namely, she noted that her critics have been unable to offer "philogynistic" texts to negate the misogynistic ones (23). Furthermore, I would add that even if Daly did hand pick sexist quotes from the Bible, the reality is that church leaders have nonetheless been using Paul's words to justify the subjugation of women throughout history.

3) The Pedestal of Invisibility

Daly devotes a chapter to "Pedestal Peddlers," those who insist that all women belong within the category of the Eternal Woman. Unlike how men are individuals, women are grouped into the class of Woman, a static, unchanging category of "thing." The traits of Woman, the Pedestal Peddlers tell us, are that "she" has a "natural vocation to surrender and hiddenness" and that she finds fulfillment in motherhood, both to her husband and her children (149). She finds salvation in submission (59). Like the venerated Mary, she is a passive receptacle, silent (162-3).

She can never form an authentic union with a man, Daly argues, because she herself has been denied authentic personhood. So, tellingly, theological treatises on marriage insist that the primary purpose of marriage is for procreation- a view that is "quite consistent with the tacit assumption that women are not fully human" but exist primarily for reproductive purposes (186). After all, how could a marriage be primarily a relationship between two persons when one partner in the union is not quite a person? (I wonder how Maggie Gallagher and other "marriage defense" women feel about their complicity in this particular ideology.)

Those who push the idea of the Eternal Woman, Daly argues, oppose female emancipation and do so by characterizing any individual woman's deviation from the Eternal Woman as "masculinization" (150). That is, women's "efforts to become more completely human" are interpreted as efforts to become "masculine" (Ibid.). And then, in an argument that still pertains perfectly to today's anti-feminists, Daly notes:

"Typical of the method of those who would perpetuate woman's imprisonment on her time-honored pedestal is a pseudo-psychology, which is manifest in their uncritical interpretation of certain behavior patterns as coming from some immutable 'nature," without considering the possibility that this behavior is in large measure the effect of early and subtle conditioning." (154)

While the Catholic Church places women on the pseudo-pedestal known as Eternal Woman, Daly recalls how the Church simultaneously invisibilizes women. For instance, one woman suggested to a bishop that the words "Orate fratres" (Pray, brothers) be changed to "Orate fratres et sorores" (Pray, brothers and sisters). The bishop opposed her request, explaining that "in principle a woman cannot offer sacrifice to God. He maintained that a laywomen has a much lesser share in the sacrifice of the Mass than does a layman" (125). Daly also noted that in a papal audience, Pope Paul addressed mixed groups as though no women were present ("My sons" and "Sons and brothers") (126).


Daly ended her second chapter with a wish:

"Hopefully, Church leaders will profit from the mistakes of the past, and not continue to repeat them." (117)

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church still opposes women's reproductive freedom, the ordination of women, and the idea that marriage is about something other than procreation. It advances the idea that god is a male entity and that men and women are "complementary" beings, as opposed to human individuals. Thus, do Daly's words, more than 40 years later, still ring true:

"Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular, has not yet faced its responsibility to exorcise the devil of sexual prejudice."

Or, in Daly's 1985 voice:

"Many feminists, vehemently anti-pornography, have told me that they have found media coverage of the pope and his cardinals more Disgusting than pornography. While the latter is woman-hating to (its) hard core, it is, by comparison, almost straightforward in its intent. In contrast to this, the papal and hierarchical processions, parades, performances, and preachments are absolutely hypocritical about their intent" (XIX).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Football: A Patriarchal American Metaphor

Last week, I wrote about how that American holiday that is Super Bowl Sunday is alienating to many women, relegating them as it does to the marginal roles of sex object, mommy-wife, or fetal incubator.

Yet, it is also valuable to think, for serious, about the men. For, on this day that revolves around celebrating the construct of exaggerated macho-masculinity that is football, we learn that if men are not on the field being Big Tough Manly Men, they are obsessing about sex, acting like man-boys, or- if they have no interest in the Big Game- being faggy girls. That is, through our television sets, Super Bowl Sunday (among other culprits), reduces both men and women to exaggerated caricatures of masculinity and femininity.

Observing the football field, we see the athletes themselves. Like Roman gladiators they are worshiped for their skill, their strength, and- perhaps most of all- their size. Whereas the ideal woman in society is the lady who continually shrinks her body, men are encouraged to take up space with theirs, preferably through the consumption of copious amounts of Man Food. And, through the power and strength of their physical size, they are celebrated for dominating other men through force, with everyone else spectating. These athletes are paragons of the concept of masculinity, which is also known as Not Woman. For, without fail, whenever comparisons are made between male and female athletes, many conversations come back to football.

Read the comment threads on ESPN and FoxSports that follow any article about female athletes, especially articles that discuss a female athlete who has successfully competed against men. Observe the male commenters anxiously asserting the Truth of Male Physical Dominance which, although it often goes unsaid, implies Male Dominance in every other sphere of life.

A woman bowler just beat a bunch of male champion bowlers
, but- they say- "Whats the big deal, its not like bowling requires some great physical ability...its a GAME, not a sport. It requires skill, not physical prowess." (Quotation in comment following article). It's a game, not a Real Sport- like how football is a sport.

The same sentiment is echoed even when women beat men at activities that are undeniable sports. In the world of ultra-marathon running and long-distance swimming, for instance, studies have demonstrated that women are more resistance to fatigue than are men, which, of course, is extremely ironic given that men used to bar "the weaker sex" from long-distance competitions. And yet, if an article on say, FoxSports, were to report one of ultra-marathoner Ann Trason's multiple wins against both male and female competitors- which of course, it wouldn't- I would bet a large sum of money that at least some male commenters would make some sort of comparison of the sport and Trason to football and football players.

In other words, "the stronger women get, the more men love football."

Because, really, perhaps more than the "physical prowess" that football involves, aren't many Americans so enamored with the sport because of the sheer, extreme stereotypical masculinity that it represents? And, in a nation whose military spending constitutes half of the world's military spending, it is no coincidence that a sport glorifying violence, aggression, and size is the measure of what counts as a Real Sport and whose athletes are the standard against which female athletes are measured?

With this backdrop, we come to the February 8, 2010 edition of Time magazine, in which the nihilism, the utter pointlessness of hyper-maculine destruction, is demonstrated. From an article entitled "The Problem With Football":

"The more we learn about the human cost of this quintessentially American sport, the more questions are being raised regarding the people who run it and play it.... a consensus is emerging that reforms are needed to keep football from becoming too dangerous for its own good.

...Repeated blows to the head, which are routine in football, can have lifelong repercussions. A study commissioned by the NFL found that ex-pro players over age 50 were five time as likely as the national population to receive a memory-related-disease diagnosis. Players 30 to 49 were 19 times as likely to be debilitated.

...Bravery. Bravado. Machismo. These qualities create superior football players. But they can be poisonous."

Ya think?

Of course, feminists have been saying that these traits are poisonous for years, but hopefully now that it is a man speaking, this argument will be taken seriously and hailed as a Brilliant Revelation.

If we look at football, specifically its hyper-masculine dominator culture, as a metaphor, we see very clearly that patriarchy has a price. It's a price that both men and women pay, albeit differently. Young men, pay with broken bodies, rendering them proud owners of the beaten brains of elderly men. Male spectators, pay with the knowledge that they don't live up to that gladiator-hero standard, which is somewhat tempered by the privileged consolation that at least they're Not Women. Women, pay for the "privilege" of being sperm depositories, fetal vessels, and/or nagging shrews.

For all of Time's health stats, stats that Glenn Sacks and other men's rights activists would likely cite in order to demonstrate that Men Have Things Bad, they get no argument from me or many feminists that patriarchy hurts men too.

As much as some will blame feminists for the state that men are currently in, it is clear that some men are not willing to give up the glory of the gladiator arena for the sake of their own health and humanity.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gender Complementarity Myth: Harmful To Men Too

To say that patriarchy hurts men, as well as women, is to make a statement of the obvious to anyone paying attention.

Under the ideology of gender complementarity, which posits that men and women constitute two halves of humanity that, when put together, comprise a special whole, masculinity is the normed superior mode of being, with femininity basically defined as Not Male.

And thus, unfortunately, for some men, clinging to the concept of "masculinity" and all of the privileges associated with it, outweighs the harms that follow from choosing to live in a man-made prison. These harms, they either ignore or, ironically, blame on feminists.

While I tend to focus on how the gender complementarity myth, gender roles, and sex role stereotyping harm women, Calvin Sandborn over at briarpatch relays the sad, alienating state of modern men:

"Noted psychologist Terrence Real estimates that almost half of all men suffer from some form of covert or overt depression. He attributes this to the way that men are socialized to deny their feelings.

Many of us trudge through life, feeling numb inside. Because of our social training, we have lost contact with our emotional lives. In fact, psychologist Ronald Levant estimates that close to 80 per cent of men suffer from some form of alexithymia-the inability to identify what one is feeling....

Over the centuries, a profound human tragedy occurred. Men and women were cut in half. Women lost their voices-and men lost their hearts. As Sam Keen puts it, 'Each gender is assigned half of the possible range of human virtues and vices. . . . Every man and every woman is half of a crippled whole.'...

Men miss a vital point in resenting feminist criticism: patriarchy has stolen our hearts and is killing us.

As the boy suppresses his real self, he replaces it with a 'false self' that fits the Code rules. This constructed self doesn’t allow itself tender feelings, or show them to others. It wears armour.

Pollack characterizes this false self as the 'mask of masculinity'-'a mask that most boys and men wear to hide their true inner feelings, and to present to the world an image of male toughness, stoicism, and strength, when in fact they feel desperately alone and afraid.'"

Although, yes, feminists have been saying essentially this for years, I applaud Sandborn for making these observations without falling into the MRA traps of (a) blaming feminism for the half-human state of men and (b) using the fact patriarchy hurts men too to "prove" that it is women who are privileged in society, rather than men.

My biggest issue with his piece, other than sketchy history of the evolution of patriarchy, is when he says "Every man and every woman is half of a crippled whole." This would only seem to be true for those who exist at the extreme ends, as caricatures, of masculinity or femininity. In reality, not all of us adhere to our assigned roles and, indeed, many people no matter their gender identity, exhibit behaviors that are assigned to the "other" gender. Women in particular have more freedom to act "masculine" than men have to act "feminine." What with the whole idea of masculinity being "better than" femininity and all.

Interestingly, if those who exist at caricatures of masculinity or femininity are sort of halves of a "crippled whole," this would suggest that individuals who display a mixture of both "feminine" and "masculine" qualities are most healthy and whole. Worth remembering the next time a representation of a Real Man or Real Woman is held up as though it's a model worth emulating.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act: Checking In

[Cross-posted at Our Big Gayborhood]

President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Act into law on October 28, 2009. This law expanded federal hate crimes legislation to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

Before Obama signed this law, those opposed to LGBT rights warned us of many Great Harms that would result from this expansion. Today, we are going to examine whether any of these predictions have come true yet.

1) The American Family Association warned that the expansion of this law was set to give "special protection status to pedophiles" and "30 different sexual orientations." Anti-gay outlets such as the Traditional Values Coalition, Liberty Counsel, World Net Daily, Concerned Women for America, and the Digital Network Army also echoed this claim of, what many of them dubbed as, the "Pedophile Protection Act."

For what these groups claimed this "special protection status to pedophiles" would tangibly entail, we need only look at this histrionic and factually erroneous (for wrongly claiming that the hate crimes law did not protect on the basis of religion) piece at WorldNetDaily. Citing Rep. Louis Gohmert or Janet Porter (it's not clear from the article), one of the two breathlessly claims:

"Do you realize what that means?

If a mother hears that their [sic] child has been raped and she slaps the assailant with her purse, she is now gone after as a hate criminal because this is a protected class. There are other protected classes in here. I mean simple exhibitionism. I have female friends who have told me over the years that some guy flashed them, and their immediate reaction was to hit them with their purse. Well now, he's committed a misdemeanor, she has committed a federal hate crime because the exhibitionism is protected under sexual orientation."

Other than the fact that Porter (or was it Gohmert?) seems to have a bizarre fixation on ladies hitting "sexual deviants" with purses, the American Psychiatric Association actually recognizes only 4 sexual orientations and they are all based on whether a person is attracted males, females, both, or neither and exists along a continuum of strictly homosexual to strictly heterosexual. Sexual orientations, which are not considered to be mental disorders, can be contrasted with sexual paraphilias such as pedophilia, exhibitionism, and 27 other conditions- which are considered impairments to normal functioning.

And so, not surprisingly, as of today, more than 3 months after the Hate Crimes expansion was signed into law, not a single pedophile (or any other person with a sexual paraphilia) has been successfully "protected" by invoking the Matthew Shepard and James Bird, Jr. Hate Crimes Act.

How do I know this?

Because we all know for damn sure that had this happened, every single one of the above anti-gay outlets would have bleated this via e-blast, Action Alert, and astro-turf blog posts.

2) In addition, Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber breathlessly claimed, after the law's passage, that Christians were now on "high alert" because this law would "muzzle" Christians and pastors, who could possibly be prosecuted for their anti-gay speech.

In reality, the law contains a provision specifically (and unnecessarily) reminding everyone that the law does not restrict people's First Amendment rights regarding free speech and expression. Even if that provision were not included, mere speech- without an attack on a person- is not a "hate crime." Somebody's words (like "faggot" or "dyke") when coupled with an overt attack on a person could be used to demonstrate the commission of a hate crime, but "just" calling a person a slur is not a hate crime. Just as preaching that "God Hates Fags" is not a hate crime.

Thus, if Christians have chosen to "muzzle" themselves, they have done so unnecessarily. But assuming that they've chilled out on the anti-gay speak at all would be, in my experience, a dubious assumption. I can't, of course, delve into the cockles of every anti-gay Christian's mind to determine if they, out of fear of being arrested for a hate crime, are now not saying things about LGBT people that they used to say. Nonetheless, we do know that (a) no Christians or pastors have yet been arrested and prosecuted for mere anti-gay speech and (b) Christian anti-gay speech is still readily available on the internet, radio, and pulpit.

In fact, just yesterday, I visited some of the most, in my opinion, virulently anti-gay Christian websites and saw that they are still in existence, spreading exactly the same messages that they have been spreading pre-October 2009 before Christians went on "high alert." How about that.

Observe, for instance, Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth [sic] About Homosexuality, preaching the "truth" [trigger warning: linked content contains aggressive homo-obsession] about the latest gay person he's decided to verbally slam:

"...[T]hat O’Mara professes to practice monogamy with her lesbian partner confers no legitimacy on her sinful relationship, nor does it negate the damage that her intentionally fatherless parenting will do to the boys they are raising."

And here, he criticizes the US and other Christians for opposing and interfering with Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill.

Despite the fact that LaBarbera's writings are just as histrionic, virulently anti-gay, and hysterical as they were before the Hate Crimes Act went into effect, LaBarbera has not been arrested or prosecuted for his Christian preachings to the choir. Nor will he be or should he be.

To end here, this process has reminded me of Aesop's The Boy Who Cried Wolf. With every incremental gain, or the possibility of one, those opposed to LGBT rights regularly make scary large and predictions about homofantastic dystopias wherein Christians are imprisoned and society is, literally, destroyed. Surely, they don't think we've forgotten all of their claims. Surely, there will come a time when even their own believers will remember what they have said before. For:

"Even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed. The liar will lie once, twice, and then perish when he tells the truth."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Religion With God the Father Not Manly Enough

Apparently, some Christian men don't think Christianity is manly enough.

Thus, via shakesville, a growing number of Christian churches are using mixed martial arts- "a sport with a reputation for violence and blood that combines kickboxing, wrestling and other fighting styles"- as a recruitment strategy aimed at young men.

Despite the fact that many Christians worship a male god, use the Adam/Eve myth to justify the subordination of women, oppose reproductive choice for women, and oppose female ordination, some ministers "fear that their churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility."

In her book The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler notes that we live in a dominator society wherein "the blade"- a constructed, aggressive masculinity- dominates. The problem is not men, but rather, the way that masculinity is defined as and equated with the act of conquest and domination over others. Within a dominator culture, male violence is glorified, idealized, and celebrated, while women are marginal figures, existing to be ruled over by men. Those who are privileged within this culture, are also those who tend to resist challenges to the culture.

Indeed, as women have progressed in society, this latest injection of "masculinity" into Christianity appears to be an anxious backlash on the part of men who fear losing their privileged and over-valued position in their religion, families, and society. Observe, Focus on the Family James Dobson's son James, a pastor and fan of mixed martial arts, telling us what this new recruitment strategy is really about:

"The man should be the overall leader of the household. We’ve raised a generation of little boys."

Kudos to Dobson for revealing a truth. That, behind all those professed "concerns" that institutions aren't male-friendly enough, lurks that dominator reality that the institutions really exist primarily for the dominator class, men.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Anti-Equality Blogger: Trendy Gay Non-Monogamy Will Spread To Straights

Anti-equality blogger Playful Walrus has been doing a little reading about sexual practices among gay men and lesbians that has led him to opine on yet another way the gays will destroy marriage. In an article exploring non-monogamy among same-sex couples, Walrus argues that the push for marriage equality is part of a "concerted, misleading public relations campaign" to "change the sociology of marriage" by removing the expectation of monogamy from marriage.

He doesn't tell us who, exactly, is leading this hoodwinky PR campaign, he only tells us that it's out "there." Somewhere. Beneath the pale moonlight. Perhaps in a miniature Leonardo da Vinci print that is, like a set of Russian babushka dolls, nested within a codex that is nested within a softball bat that is nested within one of those phallic pylon-thingies in Chicago's Boystown gayborhood.

Anyway, conspiracy theories aside, his substantive argument is not a new one. It has been made many times before by "marriage defenders" and it goes something along the lines of:

a) Statistics show that same-sex couples (and by "same-sex couples" they mean gay male couples) have higher rates of non-monogamy than do heterosexual married couples.

b) If same-sex couples are allowed to marry, the idea that marriage can be non-monogamous will infect heterosexual married folks.

c) Therefore, same-sex marriage will lead to increased rates of heterosexual non-monogamy in marriage.

Indeed, this is the argumentative path that Walrus takes, albeit in a somewhat roundabout manner. First, he states his conclusion: "[Same-sex] marriage will reduce the expectation that marriage means monogamy." To support this conclusion, he first cites statistics on heterosexual marital infidelity and then cites a New York Times article that discusses a whopping two lesbian non-monogamous couples and a study about gay male relationships in the Bay Area:

"New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians [sic] in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners." (emphasis added)

While these statistics show higher rates of non-monogamy among male same-sex relationships, and that will be addressed in a moment, let's first note how both Walrus and The New York Times generalize the results of the study to female same-sex relationships even though this particular study involved only male couples. Not surprisingly, Walrus, busy mansplaining the gay and lesbian sexual experience, failed to pick up on this nuance in his blog post.

This nuance, however, is certainly relevant. For, this argument has been made and rebutted before, by law professors Amy Wax and Dale Carpenter, respectively. Professor Wax argued that same-sex marriage will lead to hetero non-monogamy, to which Carpenter responded:

"Professor Wax’s first concern is that gay couples resist sexual monogamy and that allowing them to marry might entice heterosexuals to follow their libertine ways. The force of this concern is blunted at the outset by the fact that two-thirds of legally recognized same-sex couples are lesbians, who are famously monogamous. The contagious-promiscuity argument is really about *guy* marriage, not gay marriage....

More importantly, there’s no reason to believe that heterosexual couples model their sexual lives on gay men....Consider the numerical obstacle to such influence. Male couples will be about 1% of all marriages. Some will commit to monogamy; others will be discreet about their non-monogamy. So we’re really talking about much less than 1% of marriages. That paltry number will undermine heterosexual morals? Undermine them more than our super-monogamous lesbian role models will reinforce them?"

In light of Professor Carpenter's statements, let's continue reading one of the very articles that Walrus cited to support his conclusion that same-sex marriage will cause non-monogamy. For, it explicitly counters his conclusion and supports Carpenter's argument.

First, the article notes that statistics regarding nonmonogaomy are "fuzzy" because people don't tend to be honest about cheating on spouses:

"...[E]ven the clinical research is fuzzy. A follow-up to the Chicago study showed that people interviewed without family members around had higher rates of infidelity. It stood to reason that many people simply weren't honest when there was a chance a loved one could overhear. Meanwhile, a growing number of swinger societies, Internet liaisons, and prostitution rings of the sort that snared Spitzer seem to provide anecdotal evidence that cheating is on the rise."

Say, I wonder, could it be possible that these hetero swinger societies outnumber the numbers of non-monogamous gay male relationships? Given that heterosexuals vastly outnumber gay relationships, it would be reasonable to conclude yes. Anyone else wonder why Walrus and co. aren't seeking to prohibit non-monogamous heteros from marriage? Why does he remain fixated on same-sex relationships and the idea that it will be gay non-monogamy that destroys marriage rather than the more frequent phenomenon of hetero non-monogamy?

And two, from the article, compared to 40 years ago, more Americans now believe that infidelity is immoral and the vast majority enter marriage with the expectation of their spouse remaining faithful.

"What is known: More Americans today (80 percent) say infidelity is 'always wrong' than in 1970 (70 percent). And a full 99 percent of Americans say they expect their spouse to be faithful."

It isn't clear whether the definition of "faithful" includes those who have their spouse's consent to have sex with another person. However, let's repeat this. Even though same-sex marriage is legal in 5 states, "if the statistics are to be believed," more Americans now value fidelity in marriage than they did 40 years ago, when same-sex marriage was not legal in any state.

Now, I know that gay men tend to be trendy and all, but let's break this down. One of the arguments against same-sex marriage is that it will de-link procreation from marriage and that is bad because men, who are naturally promiscuous, will father a bunch of kids out of wedlock.

So, on the one hand, "marriage defenders" imbue the institution of marriage with the incredible power to tame heterosexual men into being monogamous. Indeed they claim that is one of its important purposes- to make sure fathers stick around to help raise their biological chidren. But on the other hand, "marriage defenders" insist that marriage is a wimpy, fragile thing. So wimpy and fragile, in fact, that it does not have the power to be a monogamous influence on the 1% or so of the marriages that would be gay male. Instead, we are told, the sexual practices of this statistically tiny population would influence Everyone Else into being non-monogamous.



He believes that is something gay (and lesbian?) relationships are capable of and that that is our Top Secret Master Plan?

Gee-whiz, Walrus, if you could take your Oppose Everything Gay Goggles off for a moment, I'd like you to introduce you to Occam's Razor. It's a nice tool that serves as a reminder to be open to the idea that no matter how much one opposes a certain issue, it probably isn't the case that the most convoluted, illogical, and internally inconsistent conspiracy theory will turn out to be correct.

To end here, speaking of lady same-sex relationships, Playful Walrus has this to mansplain:

"I'm sure there are truly monogamous same-sex couples out there (some lesbian couples report the sex going away completely, which I don't consider monogamy, but rathjer [sic] 'non-ogamy')."

What his point here is, is difficult to say. It's not exactly a Startling Revelation that monogamous same-sex couples exist, just as "I'm sure" monogamous hetero couples exist. That they exist is just a statement of fact that does not hinder on Walrus' belief or non-belief about the matter. Uttered by someone who probably has little real-life interaction with same-sex couples which perhaps caused him to generalize a study of gay male non-monogamy onto all same-sex couples without him even realizing it, his statement of the obvious suggests that he holds a non-reality-based view in which monogamous same-sex couples are few and far between.

Yet, how much you wanna bet that he thinks he, rather than actual gay men and lesbians, has a better handle on the objective truth about gay and lesbian monogamy?

Nor is it a Startling Revelation that some lesbian couples stop having sex, just as there are some hetero and gay male couples that stop having sex. What is bizarre is that Walrus presents this parenthetical tidbit of info as though he's in-the-know about something he believes is unique only to lesbian relationships. He's also apparently thought about lesbian sex (or non-sex, as the case may be) enough to invent his own terminology for it.

Do you ever start wondering when, exactly, anti-gays have time to focus on, much less involve themselves in, their own families, relationships, and sex lives?

Yeah. Me too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Odds 'N Ends

1) Math Is(n't) Hard For Girls!

From ScienceDaily:

"Girls around the world are not worse at math than boys, even though boys are more confident in their math abilities, and girls from countries where gender equity is more prevalent are more likely to perform better on mathematics assessment tests, according to a new analysis of international research."

It would make sense that girls would perform similarly to boys in countries where they have more of the same opportunities to perform similarly to boys. What's interesting but not surprising is that despite similar abilities, boys have more confidence than girls do.

2) Why Are There No "Working Fathers"?

Katherine Franke aptly laments that, despite feminism, many [heterosexual] men still feel entitled to and receive a free pass when it comes to sharing domestic work with their wives. After recounting an article about one upper-middle class working mother, she writes:

"You’d think, from the way the article was set up, that Brzezenski was a single mom. Mentioned only in passing was the seemingly marginal fact that she is married to Jim Hoffer, a successful journalist himself. He does not figure in the review as someone who has any role in taking care of the kids, taking care of Mika, or taking care of anything. The kids are her responsibility, and she may well have let them down by having a career. His career is a credential, hers is a liability and a source of guilt. Arghhh."

Interestingly, Franke raises this discussion in the context of same-sex marriage and questions whether allowing same-sex couples into marriage will challenge, or reinforce, "the marital institution, which "remains one deeply stratified by gender inequalities and status hierarchies." Generally, I've been of the opinion that same-sex marriage will counter at least some of the assumptions about gender roles within the marital institution; at the same time, to imbue same-sex marriage with the power to fix all of marriage's gender inequality problems would be to err to a similar extreme as those who say that same-sex marriage will completely destroy the institution.

Although, when you think about it, aren't "fixing" marriage and "destroying" it two different ways, uttered by two different camps, of imagining a marital institution devoid of gender inequality and status hierarchy?

3) Sex, Politics and Double Standards

Historiann recently raised some salient points regarding double-standards for male and female politicians:

"Try this on for flaky and unserious: here in Colorado, our current governor, Bill Ritter, made some news a few weeks ago when he announced that he was ending his re-election campaign because he had decided that he wants to spend more time with his family. (Three of his four children are adults, and the fourth one is 16.) Even his political opponents appear to believe that he’s on the level–there have been no sly implications of scandal, anyway–and the local media have spun the narrative that he’s not a career politician, just a super nice guy. Awwwww! Isn’t it cute? He’s such a devoted family man! I’m sure you too have seen a man pushing a stroller, and how he gets compliments and cookies from complete strangers because he’s spending time with a baby–almost assuredly his own–whereas women pushing strollers are just doing the work God made them for, and are never complimented or acknowledged to be doing anything special."

I wonder how much the fact that men get extra credit for taking on normal parenting roles furthers a man's entitled belief that taking on these roles isn't part of his normal Dadly job description?

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Tebow Ad: Ruining Fun on the Super Bowlz

Although I have not written about it, I have been following some of the controversy surrounding Focus on the [Hetero Patriarchal] Family's Tim Tebow anti-abortion ad that is set to air during this weekend's Super Bowl. For some brief background, Tebow is a football star whose mother Pam was advised, for health reasons, to have an abortion while pregnant with him. Obviously, she didn't. She gave birth to Tim, who grew up to be a famous football player.

Of all the days of the year, that this ad will be aired on Super Bowl Sunday is perhaps most apt. For, it is on Super Bowl Sunday where the role of women, moreso than most days in America, is emphatically that of object. This day is a national holiday that is centered around men, their desires, and the glorification of exaggerated masculinity. Through television sets, we sit in our living rooms viewing the world as how heterosexual men must see the world. Or, as how television networks and advertisers believe heterosexual men see the world.

While it is true that women are featured on this day, we are marginal bodies, orbiting around The Big Game. As cheerleaders and entertainers, we are sideshow features who reinforce the idea that women are primarily for sexual enjoyment and titillation whereas men are doing the Important Stuff around which the holiday is centered. In the Super Bowl's famous advertisements, as Jaclyn Friedman observes, we learn that women are either "sexually available and easily manipulated hotties" or "unlovable shrews who make men miserable."

From these observations, we further learn that heterosexual males are man-boys who are obsessed with sex and always trying to Get Away With Having Fun In Spite Of Their Mommy-Wives.

Thusly, are women and men reduced to exaggerated caricatures of femininity and its "opposite," masculinity. Whereas men are actors in the world, women are acted-upon, by men. And whenever exaggerated femininity meets exaggerated masculinity, it is femininity- and females- that are suppressed and pseudo-subsumed into the category of "man." So, on this dudeliest of all days, the point of view- commercials, gameplay, and sporty narratives- are profoundly and distinctly male. And from this point of view, as Friedman continues:

"Enter the Focus on the Family ad, thirty seconds of squeaky-clean 'family values' that make the astonishing claim that women shouldn't have abortions because they might be gestating a future male sports star....But what makes it such a perfect fit for the Super Bowl is its blatant cynicism about the role of women when it comes to the big game. It's not enough that we be always available, conventionally beautiful sex-objects.... alongside available hottie and repulsive shrew, we apparently can now be hero-incubators."

In conjunction with the Super Bowl's regular array of ads, from the Focus on the Family ad we learn that dangerous combo of two Self-Evident Patriarchal Truths: One, it is the role of women to be sexually available to men. And two, if women become pregnant as a result of being sexually available to men, they have a duty to carry that pregnancy to term.

These two "truths" work together to form a dangerous message that alienates half of humanity from full personhood.

It says the lives of women, in and of themselves, don't matter. Unlike men, who get to be The Superstars, women are a mere means to the greater end of producing future male superstars.

But, when you think about it, there is perhaps no more appropriate message, on this day of Hail Mary passes, for a Christian Nation.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dude Mansplains the Lesbian Life Experience

In a bizarre article at Details, Ian Daly explains the "lure of dating an ex lesbian."

This article is bursting with the potential to explore the fluidity of sexual identity in a meaningful way, yet Daly remains trapped in dichotomous thinking that insists that if one is not heterosexual, then one is gay. Instead of exploring the possibility that "hasbians" Anne Heche and Ani DiFranco could be bisexual, he instead lumps bisexual women into the category of "former lesbian" and goes on to suggest that since the social "novelty" of being a lesbian has "faded," it is understandable as to why So Many Women These Days are becoming "refugees" from "the isle of Lesbos."

Of course, he doesn't cite statistics regarding these masses of lesbians who are supposedly migrating from Lesboville, indeed he fully admits that such statistics are not available. Instead, he opts for a mansplanation, because I suppose when one's a straight dude opining about the lesbian experience in life, his own opinion will suffice as an adequate interpretation of reality. His interpretation? Well, you see, coupled with the faded novelty of lesbian experimentation, a woman's natural biological desire to have a baby fully explains why lesbians are turning to men.

Now, it's not clear if this article is intended to be edgy, serious, funny, or informative, but it's really none of the above. [Disclaimer: Humor-challenged Feminist Alert]. Trapped in male-centric ego-masturbatory thinking, the article is unable to conceive that lesbianism or bisexuality might be legitimate sexual identities, in and of themselves, independent of social "novelty" and babymaking desires. Instead, the article tells its male readers what they want to hear. Lesbianism and bisexuality aren't really real and women's sexuality still really revolves around men, even if they aren't sleeping with men.

How strange.

But when you think about it, the article itself might as well have been written by the virulently anti-gay American Family Association, which insists that gay people can and should opt for heterosexuality.

In another bizarre twist, if you click on the link to the article, it contains totally-irrelevant red lady lips sucking on a banana.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Art of Mansplaining

Around the feminist blogosphere, the phenomenon of mansplaining has been duly noted as of late. This is also known as the Men Who Know Things phenomenon, whereby some men mistakenly believe that they automatically know more about any given topic than does a woman and will, consequently, proceed to explain to her- correctly or not- things that she already knows.

The mansplainer's problem isn't so much that he's trying to teach a woman something, but rather that he takes it as a given that she doesn't already know whatever it is he is going to tell her.

As someone who lives life as a female human, the sheer numbers of women in comment threads who have recounted experiences of Being Mansplained To is not at all surprising. Despite my general competence at life, dudes mansplain things to me all the time. When I've been in gyms working out, men have offered me unsolicited tips on new exercises to try, despite the fact that I've been successfully working out and lifting weights for almost two decades.

A non-lawyer dude that I work with has several times given me a general overview of laws that I deal with on a daily basis. Despite the fact that I tell him, shortly but not Too Bitchily, that I am aware of what he is telling me, he repeatedly does this anyway.

Before meetings, during small talk, another male colleague will bring up the subject of politics and address his comments only to other men in the room. This enables other men to mansplain, as "helpful" asides, to the women in the room what exactly this politics stuff is that the The Dudely Grownups are talking about.

And, as perhaps one of my all-time favorite examples of mansplaining, one time, my girlfriend and I were eating dinner with a white male human. During the course of this meal, I recounted a true story about a high school in the Midwest whose mascot used to be a racial slur for a Chinese person. This mascot was changed sometime in the early 1980s, due to members of this racial minority group protesting.

After I told this story, at which many members of the dinner party were quite horrified, the white male human dinner companion misread what, exactly, everyone else was horrified about. Instead, he replied, with perfect certainty, "Now that is what you call Political Correctness Gone Awry," and then proceeded to continue eating his Man Food, assuming that the conversation was over now that he had sufficiently mansplained the travesty that had occurred.

His lack of empathy aside, it was that deadly combo of dead certainty that his point of view was completely objective coupled with that incompetent assumption that he was automatically more In The Know About Things than all women present that pretty much defines the art of mansplanation. Yet, the privilege of his race cannot be discounted here, either. Oftentimes, whiteness and maleness work together to exponentially increase a man's propensity to mansplain.

And so this instance, was also a classic case of whitesplaining, whereby a white person whitesplains how a person of color is "wrong" about something being racist against people of color. It's the same basic idea as mansplaining- as both are grounded in the privilege of one's identity being considered society's default and, therefore, more objective than the experiences of Other identities.

Whereas whitesplaining is the result of the white experience being "normed," mansplaining, is the logical result of men possessing the privilege whereby they are largely assumed to be both default human beings and automatically competent at life. If white people and men, and especially white men, are not aware of it, they are incredibly likely to wrongly assume themselves to be more competent than women and people of color at pretty much everything, up to and including what it means to live as a female or person of color in society.

Enjoy the related links and commentary:

From Karen Healey: "Think about the men you know. Do any of them display that delightful mixture of privilege and ignorance that leads to condescending, inaccurate explanations, delivered with the rock-solid conviction of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation?"

From Zuska: "You May Be A Mansplainer If..."

From IBTP: "Mansplaining — you know mansplaining, right? It’s that loud, annoying, repetitive alarm call that men emit whenever they perceive a lower-status person challenging their authority."

From Kate Harding: "Here’s a thing about mansplaining and why I care a lot about it: it is annoying, and frustrating, and insulting, and deeply rooted in institutionalized sexism, and often profoundly harmful to women."

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

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blogger Who Knows Truth About Stuff Doesn't Feel Need To Make Arguments

I know, the title to this post could totally apply to a gazillion bloggers. But today, we're only going to focus on one.

PF over in hell passed on a link to me of this blog article called "Gay Agenda: IL School Redefines Family."

First off, I peruse lots of different blogs. Of the fucktillions of blogs that exist, I have noticed entertaining trends among conservative-leaning ones. I'm pretty sure that studies have shown that 82% of such blogs have some sort of hokey red, white, and blue ultra-patriotic theme going on and/or include a Bad Ass photo of the blogger wearing badass shades, a baseball cap, and possibly proudly holding a firearm. Welcome to Real America, folks.

Anyway, I don't believe I had ever visited the above-linked particular blog before, so let me tell you, I noticed the formatting right away. Generally, as a blogger, I give readers credit to be able to figure out how to click on any embedded links within a particular sentence. These bloggers, however, perhaps just to make super-duper sure that everyone Gets It, include capitalized, bold-face lettering shouting at readers to CLICK HERE if they want to travel to other realms of the world wide web.

Then, erring in the other direction, the blog provides verbatim statements from the linked-to articles without encapsulating the quotations in quotation marks. How bizarre. It ends up being quite confusing, mostly because it's difficult to ascertain which statements are the blogger's and which are not. I figured it out the best I could by dividing the statements into two categories, Pro-Gay and Anti-Gay, and then inferring that the Anti-Gay statements were those of the blogger's. It was a lot of work, actually, that turned out to be not totally worth it in the end.

But those observations are rather petty. Entertaining and confusing, but petty. In the grand scheme of things, I am okay with anti-gay folks being poor communicators. It makes my job Advancing the Gay Agenda that much easier. A more substantive critique is that I also noticed that the two resident bloggers who seem to write quite a bit about really heated and controversial political issues don't even allow comments. Though to be fair, I suppose, there really is no need to hear what others have to say when one already knows everything.

When one knows everything, assemblages of histrionic conclusions without supporting arguments generally suffice, because everything is just so self-evidently true.

And what's the truthy truth? Well, I learned that this particular blogger, Gabriel Mephibosheth, does not at all like that Shannon Sullivan of the Illinois Safe Schools Network has been trying to make schools safer for LGBT kids. Which, as Gabriel puts it, means Sullivan is really trying to advance "the offensive claim that families led by homosexuals are morally equivalent to those led by guardians, disabled parents, racial minorities, or heterosexuals."

Now here, I was like, "Yeah, so what?" But then I remembered that in AntiGayLand, it is pretty much a given, a statement of Objective Moral Truth, that homosexuality is morally inferior to heterosexuality and, as such, it requires no further elaboration actually explaining why it would be offensive to equate gay families with Real Families.

At this point, I will link to the evidence that demonstrates that the kids of same-sex couples do just fine but, of course, such evidence doesn't matter to people who already know deep down in their guts the Objective Truthy Truth that Homosexuality Is Wrong, Bad, and Dangerous.

Observe, Gabriel telling it like it is:

"'Family Diversity' is a term that obscures the politically incorrect truth that not all family structures are worthy of appreciation or respect."

Families headed by same-sex couples are not "worthy of appreciation or respect"?

Oh really? Why is that, Gabriel?

Here's why:

"The forms of diversity of which Ms. Sullivan is enamored are, in the view of many people, profoundly wrong; and public schools have no right to use school hours, school resources, and public money to affirm Ms. Sullivan's unproven, divisive theories to children."

So, families headed by same-sex couples are not worthy of appreciation or respect because many people believe homosexuality is "profoundly wrong." That is a conclusion, not an argument. All it tells us is that same-sex parenting duos are bad because many people think same-sex couples are bad. It doesn't tell us anything about the merits or demerits of same-sex couples or parenting other than that a bunch of people aren't okay with it.

Now, at this juncture, it is worth mentioning that one of the arguments marriage equality advocates are making in the current Prop 8 trial is that it is unconstitutional for states to exclude same-sex couples from marriage because doing so sends the message that same-sex couples are inferior to heterosexual couples. As attorney Ted Olson noted in his opening argument:

"...Proposition 8 singled out gay men and lesbians as a class, swept away their right to marry, pronounced them unequal, and declared their relationships inferior and less-deserving of respect and dignity."

That same-sex couples are inferior to heterosexual couples is not exactly a point of contention among many "marriage defenders" and anti-gay folks. That is just a statement of fact that is accepted as a given, as it is to Gabriel here. Obviously, to them, same-sex relationships are not worthy of respect. They certainly aren't worthy of the same respect that Real Families are.

It is highly interesting to see the Prop 8 supporters and NOM now backpedaling and insisting that Prop 8 was not motivated by anti-gay animus, in light of the observable fact that anti-gay sentiments such as Gabriel's, above, are hardly unusual.

The message is very clear. We hear it all the time from folks like Gabriel.

We don't count. Our families aren't real like how heterosexual nuclear families are real. That isn't even up for debate, not on blogs or in courtrooms, because lots and lots of people believe that.

Oh, but Gabriel continues, not giving readers enough credit he states his conclusions as fact and offers us no arguments:

"The administration has no right to impose these unproven, divisive, and often religious beliefs, on teachers through Institute Day presentations or any other professional development workshops that focus on 'anti-bullying' or 'diversity.' And administrators have no right to expect or compel teachers to share Sullivan's subversive ideas with young children, many of whose parents have political, philosophical, moral, or religious beliefs that conflict with them."

While I appreciate this extra-special glimpse into what Gabriel believes administrators have "no right" to do, some argumentation to back up such claims would be helpful for us to, you know, follow along and come to a conclusion ourselves.

But that's not really what anti-gay "argumentation" is about, is it?

As we see over and over again, these Weapons of Mass Projection constantly accuse equality advocates of being touchy-feely and preying on people's emotions. In reality, it's a statement of observable fact that their hysterical, flaccid "arguments" are little more than appeals to fear, appeals to the Christian Persecution Complex, appeals to populist rage, and appeals to the higher power whose will they conveniently have the exclusive right to interpret.