Friday, July 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

We can thank reader John for passing along this gem. Phylis Schalfy on whether the country is ready for a woman president:

"'I don't see it happening because I don't see one coming up the line in either party,' she said. Democrat Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama because 'people don't want to elect a feminist because they are not likeable. You have to be likeable to be elected.' She paused a moment before musing that 'the best route is probably being a governer,' never mind that at this moment, 'the pickings among [women] governors are very slim.'

Ditto, apparently, among female ex-governors. 'Sarah Palin is the total package. She's got a cute husband. She's got a lot of kids.'

But is she ready to be president? 'I don't think so.'"

Because maybe she doesn't have enough children yet?

You know, when I was a kid, I always thought we'd be driving flying cars, riding hoverboards, and eating astronaut food in the year 2010. Instead, we have Phylis Schlafly, still partying like it's 1959.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

NOM Supporter Advocates Violent "Solution to Same-Sex Marriage"

[Trigger Warning: Violent Hate Speech]

"What’s really sad to me is how enormously hateful the [equality] protesters have been. They have gone over the line....Hate is not a family value. Americans who came together across lines of race, creed, and color to protect marriage as one man and one woman are not haters. Gay activists treat Americans who disagree with them about same-sex marriage like bigots.

They want to use the law to suppress and marginalize and stigmatize. It’s just shameful and wrong for these activists to try and portray good Americans in that way." -Maggie Gallagher, National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage

While the National Organization for Marriage has been diligently tweeting about alledged homosexualist cars cutting off their marriage bus in traffic and such, one of their supporters recently showed up to one of their Indiana summer marriage tour destinationholding this sign:


That puts a damper on Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown's victim narrative that posits that "marriage defenders" of faith are unfairly called haters, intolerants, and bigots. There are no reports of anyone from NOM renouncing, disagreeing with, or condemning this man's sign.

So, if we may now turn our attention back to Ms. Gallagher's statement at the top of this post and submit the above photo as evidence that sometimes, faithful Christian "marriage defenders" really are bigots and haters. Unfortunately, rather than embracing this reality and condemning such hate, Gallagher seems to want Americans to shut our eyes, plug our ears, and pretend LGBT people are just being hyper-sensitive whiners about the fact that many people believe their religion requires my death.

Your death.

Your brother's death.

Your mother's death.

Your friend's death.

Let's be clear.

This is a big. fucking. deal.

Unfortunately, such violent rhetoric is a reality that we've become so accustomed to that it's hardly surprising. We expect this from them. Believing LGBT people should die is a normative, moral statement in some religious circles.

Getting cut off in traffic, something Brian Brown implied was evidence of LGBT "intolerance," having to endure being called a "bigot," are simply not equivalent to this sort of religiously-motivated hate, murder, and violence directed toward LGBT people. The individual actions of LGBT advocates and allies, not being backed by the same amount of institutional power that religion commands in our society, does not come close to matching the terror that Christians can impose upon us in the name of their all-mighty god in a nation they believe is their god's special nation.

That's why these false victim narratives like like "it's the poor, brave religious marriage defenders who are being persecuted at the hands of homosexuals" ring so incredibly hollow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In Which the Male Gaze Continues to Define Woman

"Woman is not born: she is made. In the making, her humanity is destroyed. She becomes symbol of this, symbol of that: mother of the earth, slut of the universe; but she never becomes herself because it is forbidden for her to do so." -Andrea Dworkin

"Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves." -John Berger, Ways of Seeing

In 2004, "Jane Doe" was at a St. Louis bar dancing while "Girls Gone Wild" videographers were filming. When the cameramen encouraged her to take her top off, the woman could be heard on the video saying "no." Another person then pulled Jane Doe's top down, an action that was caught on camera. The footage ended up on a "Girls Gone Wild" video and the woman sued the company, claiming that she never gave consent and that the video damaged her reputation.

A jury has just found that, despite the fact that this adult woman explicitly said "no," she really meant yes. Or, as the jury foreman mansplained:

"Through her actions, she gave implied consent," [he] said. "She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing."

She knew what she was doing.

What does that even mean? Women who dance in public assume the risk of being having live, on-camera assaults pornified? When it comes to the ladies, our actions speak louder than words?

The term "implied consent" is a legal fiction that allows someone else to assume, without consequence, that another person- a woman, say- has consented when she may not have actually consented at all. Although an affirmative "yes" is absent in such cases, it is argued that the woman also didn't say "no," or she didn't say it loudly enough or with enough conviction for it to count.

Jane Doe is every woman.

She embodies sex. Her existence is in a state of perpetual consent to be used for some sexual purpose. Especially if a man is nearby and she hasn't left the vicinity.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cheerleading a Sport, But Not at Quinnipaic

In 2009, Quinnipaic University cut its women's volleyball team, pledging to replace it with a new sport for women- competitive cheer (also known as cheerleading). In response to this move, several members of the volleyball team sued, claiming that the university violated Title IX- the federal law mandating equal opportunity in education. A federal judge held last week that the University discriminated on the basis of sex with respect to athletic opportunities because cheerleaders cannot be counted as athletic participants under Title IX.

Initially, as a volleyball player myself, I had a knee-jerk sort of WTF response before reading the opinion. How could cheerleading ever be a legit substitution for volleyball, I thought. After reading it, I still think the court decided correctly, but I also realize how quick I was to dismiss competitive cheer as a Real Sport. On that point my gut-level instinct was wrong.

It's not a Startling Revelation to note that the sports world is a macho, male-dominated arena. Cheerleading, however, is perhaps the most blatant symbol of the submissive, decorative feminine in the sports world. So much so that our sporty cultural narrative simply takes it as a given that cheerleading is no way no how a Real Sport. If mostly women do it or are good at it, after all, it by definition cannot be a sport, right? With that background in mind, it is important to tease out my primary criticism of cheerleading here. Namely, that it is a sport that is rooted in that old-style notion that women exist to support men who are living their big dreams. However, that is a different critique than one that posits that cheerleading isn't a sport because it's so visibly feminine.

Even though they were my high school arch nemeses and so this pains me somewhat to admit, they are, unquestionably, athletes. I've seen some of those competitions. I can't do that stuff and I know damn well 90% of the macho weekend warrior crowd couldn't either.

Moving on, the Court describes competitive cheer thusly:

"Competitive cheer is an outgrowth of traditional sideline cheerleading. Competitive cheer teams use many of the moves and techniques that sideline cheer squads have developed over the decades, and their routines look like more athletic and aerobatic sideline cheer orchestrations. But whereas sideline cheerleaders primarily work to entertain audiences or solicit crowd reaction at other teams’ games or school functions, competitive cheer teams strictly engage in sport....

As I noted in my preliminary injunctionruling, competitive cheer is an athletic endeavor that 'could be easily described as ‘group floor gymnastics.’”

While that may be true, despite these sporty characteristics, neither the Department of Education nor the NCAA recognize cheerleading as a sport. The Court then looked at the history of competetive cheer, an activity that began when an athletic equipment company began holding competitions "with the intent of creating a business that would sell cheerleading equipment and offer training camps for cheerleaders." The founder of these competititons "never imagined that his competitions would establish a new sport; rather, he understood his competitions as a publicity vehicle for his startup business."

I wonder, the annoying consumerism issue aside, does the founder's intent about cheerleading becoming a sport really matter, especially if the event has evolved into something more or can aptly be categorized as floor gymnastics? After all, when Pheidippides ran the 40 kilometers from Marathon to Athens with word of victory over the Persians, he probably didn't intend for his actions to establish a new sport either. My point is that the competitive cheer participants likely take their exertions seriously and aren't in it to advertise athletic products. If we removed the athlete label from all athletes whom companies made a buck off of, well, the Real Athletes of the NBA, NFL, and MLB would no longer be athletes.

Although noting that history, the Court doesn't actually use it to determine that cheerleading isn't a Title IX sport. Instead, the Court used a Title IX analysis to determine “[w]hether intercollegiate level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments.” In applying this rule, a Court will assess the percentage of female (and male) athletes relative to female (and male) enrollment. And, in order to count, an athletic participation opportunity must be "real, not illusory," offering the same benefits that other athletes get.

This case, of course, turns on whether a cheerleading opporunity is a bona fide athletic opportunity for women. For, without the competitive cheer team, the university did not provide women with participation opportunities in numbers "substantially proportionate" to their enrollment in the school. The Court concluded that cheerleading was not a bona fide athletic opportunity, noting that it's not an NCAA sport, didn't have locker space, and didn't recruit athletes off-campus.

In addition, the Court found that the team's season and competition was "quantitatively and qualitatively different from established varsity sports." For instance, although the team was part of an association with other school teams, the association had no power to enforce its rules, which varied from competition to competition. For instance, the team participated in 10 competitions during one season conducted according to 5 different scoring rules and against a variety of different teams (including private, club, and high school teams). Furthermore, in the championship, teams were not ranked or seeded and didn't have to qualify to participate. It operated more at a "club" level than a Division I NCAA varsity sport.

Reading this, I am sympathetic to the cheerleaders' situation. It wasn't even argued that cheerleading couldn't be a sport, it was taken as a given that it could be. Rather, the Court correctly decided it wasn't a sport because the university was trying to pass off this half-assed gig as though it were a legit female varsity athletic opportunity when it wasn't even remotely close to how other varsity sports competed. I'm not opposed to competitive cheer being recognized as a sport, especially when the focus is on competition rather than cheering others on, but if a school's going to claim it as a sport, they have to make it comprable to others varsity sports, get it sanctioned by the NCAA, and make sure consistent rules and standards are followed at each competition.

Unfortunately, shallow news accounts are already framing this as "Judge says cheerleading not a sport." With the implication being, obviously, because it's girly and shit. What accounts will undoubtedly fail to note is that the Judge ended by noting:

"In reaching my conclusion, I also do not mean to belittle competitive cheer as an athletic endeavor. Competitive cheerleading is a difficult, physical task that requires strength, agility, and grace. I have little doubt that atsome point in the near future – once competitive cheer is better organized and defined, and surely in the event that the NCAA recognizes the activity as an emerging sport – competitive cheer will be acknowledged as a bona fide sporting activity by academic institutions, the public, and the law."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Images of Subtle Sexism

"[T]he LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

"Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man." -Genesis 2:7-22

Check out this Modern English gender pronoun chart that's in the Wikipedia entry for "He":



1) While the letter "f" precedes "m" alphabetically, notice how "male" precedes "female" on this chart (and others).

2) Also note how in the "impersonal" category, the order of pronouns is:

"higher male animal"
"higher female animal"
"lower animal"

Is it simply a given in the English language that the male category precedes the female category which is, apparently, one step above "lower animal"?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Over-Used Adjective Alert

I don't think as many things are as phenomenal as people claim.

Overheard the other day:

"These wafer cookies are phenommmenal!"

No. Sorry, but aside from an cherub taking a dump on one, there is just nothing about the essence of a wafer cookie that would make it all that remarkable.

This message was brought to you by the Committee To Instill Humor Into Feminist Blogs, an undertaking of the utmost importance.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Breaking: It's Rude To Assume Procreation Goes With Marriage

I don't usually click on dorkwad pop articles like this one about offensive things not to say at people's weddings, but out of curiosity I did the other day.

Whereas "marriage defenders" like Chuck Cooper seek to inform society that procreation is the "central purpose" of marriage for all people, in the above-referenced article we learn that it is actually quite rude both to assume and then to ask when newlyweds are going to have a baby. Disregard the annoying heterocentrism in this article, and watch MSN inform us that after marriage:

"Next comes whatever the bride and groom want, which may be buying a home, working toward a big promotion, or something else entirely. Everyone's got their own schedule and life goals, which may or may not include the pitter-patter of little feet."

So there you have it.

Marriage is not defined by the desire or ability for a couple to procreate. The institution means different things to different people. MSN said so. Which is at least more proof than, as Ted Olson quipped of Cooper's big Prop 8 procreation argument, "We don't have to prove anything. We don't have any evidence."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Constructing Manliness as Authenticity

As if taken directly from a Butch Pornstache column, John Kass writing in the Chicago Tribune takes a moment to stroke the manly phallus of hypermasculinity.

To begin, yes, I'm well aware that it is intended to be light-hearted. I critique these Real Man circle jerks because they often serve as a cover for commenters to vent their homophobia and misogyny under the guise of celebrating masculinity, whilst simultaneously framing manly men as societal victims.


"[O]ur modern American culture really doesn't like manly men much these days."

As Kass fails to define who exactly he means by "our modern American culture," I would be highly interested in knowing specifically who all of these Americans are who dislike manly men. If he's referring to feminists, it isn't so much manly men that we hate, but the socially-constructed, aggressive, and toxic hypermasculinity that is evident in military policy, the Super Bowl, and stupid articles lauding manly manhood as though it's inherent in men rather than the male supremacist social construction that it is.

Basically, the article is a reaction against the application of patriarchal beauty norms to men. His argument is that manly men should not be treated like how women in our society are treated, although Kass of course doesn't frame it that way. Watch. Manly men, according to Kass, should be celebrated for being natural and letting it all hang out exactly how nature made 'em. Unfortunately, men are now being expected to comply with dumb, artificial beauty norms:

"Currently, the so-called ideal man is smooth and hairless and shaves in all the wrong places. He's known to ask questions like: 'Dude, does this shirt go with these pants?'"

He then observes a photograph of a super-duper cigar-smoking, hairy-chested, big-bellied man and holds him up as a manly man Platonic ideal. In this photograph, Kass is celebrating a man's natural look, as opposed to a constructed, artificial ideal of manliness. Unfortunately, this celebration of a manly man has less to do with rejecting artificial beauty norms because they're superficial or unfair and more to do with rejecting these norms because they're feminine.

Within his argument that the manly man must retain his hair, roughness, and disinterest in fashion is the unstatment of obvious that all of this man-grooming makes men, well, girly. And that is very bad. For, given ample opportunity to at least mention how unfair artificial beauty standards are to women as well, Kass says not a word of complaint about the fact that, under society's beauty norms, the so-called ideal woman is also smooth and hairless and shaves in all the (right?) places. When faced with such silence about beauty standards being unfair to women, who have endured these hairless, smooth standards much longer than the poor men have, one is logically led to the conclusion that Kass doesn't have an across-the-board opposition to beauty standards but rather only an opposition to applying these beauty standards to men.

Indeed, let's pause and wonder whether Kass and other admirers of manly men would be as accepting and celebratory of a woman who likewise rejected beauty superficiality and retained her rough skin and hairy body.

Well that thought experiment was fun, wasn't it?

Of course the manly man is unaccepting of "the natural look" in women. Manhood, by this manly man definition, means a lack of concern with all things beauty-related. Womanhood, manhood's "opposite," is thusly defined as a deep concern with beauty stuff. Whereas men with waxed bodies are relatively easy to spot as unnatural, a woman with a waxed and hairless body is seen as natural. It is what she is. Even though, not really.

In this way, are "beauty" sex differences constructed, effectively exaggerating the idea that Men And Women Are Very Different. When women reject feminine beauty standards, or when men accept these feminine standards for themselves, these differences between men and women begin to reveal themselves as less inherent than "common sense" dictates. This sort of anxious, policing reaction of Kass' ridicules the non-compliant man or woman as being, respectively, girly or manly. For instance, the woman who rejects these beauty concerns is subject to ridicule for being, by definition, "manly."

And then, Kass starts talking about cigars:

"If you want to see a real Chicago manly man, take a look at the photo of the guy in the lake, smoking a cigar, wading on a hot summer day."

The man in the photo is described as one who "could lose a few pounds," and because manly men take up space, this is celebrated. And on that point, kudos to someone who isn't shaming a fat guy about his body (although a bit later, Kass urges his readers to send him lots of photos of manly men, not all of whom are "fat blobs"). But as with our hypothetical hairy-legged lady, I doubt we'd get the same celebration of a photo of a fat woman smoking a cigarette while standing in her bathing suit on a beach.

Kass continues, talking some more about cigars. And also some other stuff:

"And though he's in the water, he has no intention of actually swimming. He's still got his sunglasses on and his hair is dry. How's a man supposed to enjoy a cigar in the lake if he's swimming? It's just not done.

So it's obvious that here's a guy who doesn't give two figs what you think. It's not about looks. It's about attitude."

The manly man doesn't care about his looks. When moms with perms do the doggy paddle to keep their heads above water, it's superficial and girly. When manly men keep their heads above water so they can keep sucking on manly, cylindrical objects, it's super manly. And also, manly men take up space. Again:

"These days, some men are known to hold in their girth by wearing mirdles — man girdles. girdles. That's something a fat guy like me sure could use, but then, I'd never wear one because, well, Mike Owens wouldn't wear one, would he?"

I'm totally with him on how guys shouldn't wear girdles. But note that, again, Kass is totally silent as to whether ladies should wear girdles. Indeed, girdles are, by definition, items for women. When men where them they are called "mirdles." Yes, this is an article about manly men, and not ladies, but this article seems to be premised on the assumption that squeezing men into beauty standards made for women is unnatural precisely because it's girly, without ever questioning the assumption that beauty standards for women are unnatural as well. It is a laudable goal to seek to liberate men from these standards. But by defining the natural look as "manly," these light-hearted, good timesy articles further entrench women in these beauty standards.

And then, Kass starts talking about Man Food, which is of course animal flesh:

"Which brings me to this stupid America's Manliest City survey commissioned by the snack food Combos. If you're reading this with a bag of Combos in your hand, you are clearly not a manly man....

You want a real manly combo?

How about Grape Nehi and Slim Jims? A Polish and a beer. Broken cashew pieces and beef jerky. Fresh figs wrapped with prosciutto."

Thus, according to his article, being a manly man has three rules:

1) Don't do girly shit
2) Have a natural, authentic appearance
3) Be carniverous

I'm totally with this dude on the "America's Manliest City" survey being stupid. But Kass's crtieria for manly men is also pretty fucking stupid, reducing men to that bullshit ooga booga me need meat caveman stereotype as though those traits are only and essentially male. For, although Kass began by suggesting that manly men are biologically destined by their cigars to be manly men, you will notice that embodying these rules does not, actually, require a penis.

Rather, being a manly man is like being in a club. That people can choose to be in. Or not.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

NOM Takes Psychic Act on the Road!

The National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) has embarked on a sad project called "NOM Marriage Tour 2010: One Man, One Woman," complete with a bus plastered with smiling stock photos of racially-diverse heterosexually-headed families. Although organizing is what these people do for a living, this tour seems to be managing to attract no more than 100 supporters at each of its various stops. (NOM has exaggerated these numbers, but photos don't lie).

As unfortunate as this tour is, both in its lack of success and with its vague stated purpose of encouraging "supporters to stand up for marriage," I have visions of more NOM pearl-clutching dancing in my head.

In the Spring of '61, Freedom Riders took to buses for purposes of challenging racial segregation. Of course, NOM's tour looks like a cheap, ironic co-option of the Freedom Rides, given NOM's support for a separate-and-unequal marriage framework in the US. While NOM doesn't seem to get that inconvenient point, perhaps this passage from Wikipedia sheds light on the real motive:

"The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the southern United States."

Given NOM's victim narrative wherein intolerant LGBT mobs regularly inflict incredible amounts of violence upon those poor, brave souls who only want to "stand up for" traditional marriage, is NOM dangling this bus throughout the country as bait, knowing full well that it is a visible representation of LGBT second-class citizen status? After all, when confronted with provocation, many people do naturally react with anger.

Indeed, let's observe how NOM is already documenting, in painstaking and exaggerated detail, every real and imagined slight suffered by its tour bus and participants thus far:

-NOM's Brian Brown recently tweeted the following: "On our way to Albany. Car just swerved to cut us off and gave hand gesture. Got tolerance?" Someone with NOM also took a photo of this car, proving quite willing show a lack of respect for other people's privacy whilst simultaneously accusing this person of wrondoing without sufficient evidence. Note how Brown just knows the driver is a supporter of same-sex marriage and cut the bus off because of disagreement over that issue.

On that point, I've been cut off in traffic numerous times. Also been given the bird a few. Not once have I attributed this to my sexual orientation, my gender, or a pro-gay bumper sticker on my car. Like most people who drive, I sort of get that some people are rude drivers. Brown insults the intelligence of his supporters, and all Americans, with this particular example.

-Someone allegedly slashed a tire of the NOM bus. NOM, psychicly knowing that this was done by a pro-gay marriage advocate, has asked its $upporters for money, claiming "Clearly at least one opponent of God's view on marriage wanted to keep us off the road!"

It would be unfortunate if a pro-gay advocate really did slash the tire. No LGBT organization would condone such an action. But again, NOM attributes this act to a supporter of same-sex marriage without having sufficient evidence. Really, I wouldn't be surprised if they did it themselves to make them look victimized. That's how desperate I see them as trying to frame themselves as victims.

-NOM's rallies thus far have been drawing peaceful counter-protestors. In Rhode Island, the NOM rally drew about 175 counter-protestors, compared to about 150 NOM supporters. At this rally, via On Top Magazine:

"Gay activists chanted, 'Get your hate out of our state,' as they attempted to shout down NOM's speakers.
'The [sic] simply went crazy,' NOM President Brian Brown complained on the group's blog. 'I've never seen anything like it. The hatred was palpable. It was an embarrassment to their cause – I only hope the word gets out, so people can see how nuts they were.'
'Theirs is a message of intolerance and hatred: if you don't agree with me, you're a bigot and we're going to either shout you down or intimidate you into silence. That's no civil rights movement.'"

I don't agree with trying to "shout down" the other side. Why shout them down when their arguments so easy to counter? A peaceful demonstration can be just as, if not moreso, effective. However, one has to question Brown's characterization of "gay activists" as "crazy" and "nuts" for being vocal in a protest designed to ensure LGBT second class-citizenship.

Even more troubling is the way Brown suggests that he felt physically intimidated into silence, given that there is no indication that the counter-protesters threatened him or NOM in any manner. As a biased participant in these rallies, Brown clearly can't be counted on to present an objective rundown of events.

Anyway, as a practicing clairvoyant myself, I predict that at some point during this tour Brown will be sitting in a gas station toilet post-dump only to realize his stall's out of toilet paper- and somehow he'll manage to link that travesty to the Gay Activists too! Such is life.

But seriously, as I read through these incidents, a thought kept coming back to me. Where is Brown's desire to understand why LGBT people and our supporters might feel strongly about this issue? NOM talks about "God's" plan for marriage, but where is the Christian compassion for their fellow human beings? Not that bullshit "love the sinner, hate the sin" compassion, but compassion rooted in kindness, love, and a genuine desire to alleviate suffering rather than to cause it?

Instead, by focusing on and exaggerating these tour bus incidents, NOM creates this implicit message that LGBT people shouldn't have marriage rights because look at how mean they are! I mean, what other purpose could documenting these minor incidents really serve?

NOM is the most influential single-issue organization devoted to opposing same-sex marriage. Even its own supporters should expect it to do better than that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Conservative Christian Humor

I saw this first at Good As You. Far-right "news" source WorldNetDaily has posted a video of the remarkably unfunny "comedian" DJ Dolce (I'm not going to send traffic to WND but you can access the video at G-A-Y). In it, she says:

"...Speaking of whiners, Democrats are still complaining that someone used the 'n-word' in reference to Obama and the 'f-word' in reference to Barney Frank. Well, not the 'F-word' … the other “F-word” …Faggot!

[laugh track chimes in]

Now one of these attacks is unacceptable. Racism is wrong [said somewhat sarcastically, with arms crossed].

And the other thing… [Dolce shrugs, biting her lip, while the laugh track chimes in again. "Audience" claps.]"

So, I'm trying to put myself in the mindframe of a raging homobigot... and I'm still coming up empty on how this would even be funny. It's not witty. It's not amusing. It's not intelligent. It's basically somebody calling Barney Frank a faggot. That this monologue was conceived as a stand-up routine is just bizarre. Are WorldNetDaily fans really this.... simple and easily-amused?

And also, do you ever feel like asking conservative Christians when the last time was that they laughed about something that wasn't at somebody else's expense?

Yeah, me too.

And say, where is the National Organization for Marriage and the 7 million civil, nice guy "marriage defenders" in California who voted for Prop 8 denouncing this hate speech, anyway?

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Crappy Tea-Party Victim Narrative

[Note: This post contains 6 of the 7 George Carlin dirty words you can't say on television, which some, consequently, also find offensive. Just so that's out there.]

So, I've been following this NAACP/Tea Party hub-ub with mild interest. Only mild interest because while the Tea Partiers annoy me, that annoyance is not significantly greater than my annoyance with Democrats or Republicans.

What does perturb me significantly is sloppy thinking and straw arguments. Observe, in reaction to the NAACP denouncing racist elements within the Tea Party, Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler opine in Politico:

"A clear pattern of behavior has emerged over the last 16 months. According to liberals, if you disagree with their thinking, and if you disagree with the Obama administration, you are not only wrong, you are a 'racist.'”

Holy strawman, Dorothy. You will notice that, despite this oh-so-pervasive "pattern" of liberal argumentation, Martin and Meckler don't provide evidence of a single liberal making such an absurd claim. Besides, it's not so much that those who disgaree with Obama are racist because they disagree with him, but rather, that sometimes those who disagree with Obama also happen be racist.

It's a nuance thing. But, it plays well into the victim narrative. Observe Martin and Meckler, continuing to get it so very wrong:

"The latest strike by the left comes from the NAACP, which has resolved that the tea party movement is inherently 'racist.' At its most simple, this is a direct attack on the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans."

Oh buddha on a biscuit. The First Amendment, say it with me now, prohibits the government from abridging freedom of speech. Individuals calling other individuals names is not a violation of anybody's shit piss fuck c--- cocksucker motherfucker tits* free speech rights. At its most simple. Framing the label "racist" as a First Amendment violation, is an ironic silencing mechanism. Legitimate criticisms of racism are chalked up as either a pseudo-violation of somebody else's First Amendment rights or as unfairly playing the race card (tm).

Anyway, after those two beginning quotations, my respect for this article was so deep in the shitter that I stopped reading it. Proceed with caution.

*In real First Amendment news, the 2nd Circuit just issued an important free speech decision finding the FCC's rules regarding expletives unconstitutionally vague. That is a victory for free speech.

[Note: Yes, I self-censored that c-word that I, and many others, abhor. Just because you have free speech rights, doesn't mean you should always say everything you're free to say. Or, as some might say, the feminazis are censoring me!11!!1]

Thursday, July 15, 2010

He Comes Bering Schadenfreude

"In fact, everything we encounter in this world with our six senses is an inkblot test. You see what you are thinking and feeling, seldom what you are looking at."

So, Emily Nagoski, a woman with a relatively small wordpress blog, wrote a post about misogyny she saw in male evolutionary psychologist Jesse Bering's article in popular science magazine Scientific American. Basically, she accused him of being "anti-feminist" for writing about being grosssed-out out by vaginal secretions. While the matter could have been resolved with Bering saying something akin to, "Actually, I think male secretions are just as gross as female secretions, which is evidence that I am not sexist," (which he insists is his view) he instead went on a verbally abusive tirade in this popular scientific e-magazine that was about seven times as long as Nagoski's small post.

As a wordy lady myself, it's not so much the length of Bering's response that got to me, but rather that it was so disproportionate, so unwarranted, so hostile, and so- well- everything he claimed Nagoski's article to be. And more than that, he deigned to be knowledgeable enough about feminism to be able to inform the world what is wrong with the movement, despite the fact that he admitted he wasn't even previously aware that "misandry" was a word, something people who follow feminism tend to know. Feminism's Big Problem? Well, "intriguing new experimental research" shows that humorless bitches of feminists like Nagoski give feminism a bad name "in the modern psyche."

I don't dabble in psycho-babble (is the "modern psyche" really a thing?), and am going to be up front about not being a scientist (although, is a psychologist?). However, as an attorney, my gig is arguments and, specifically, calling bullshit on other people's. So...


Bering's response transforms a nuanced human being into a caricature of the most extreme feminist villain imaginable. Like, Valerie Solanis and SCUM Manifesto extreme. From a handful of sentences, he discerns that Nagoski is precisely the type of feminist that Defames All Of Feminism or, in his words, she is one of those "obnoxious, peevish and humorless feminists" that is "sadly defining the movement in the minds of thoughtful onlookers."

Ouch. What a peevish thing to say about someone who wrote, at best, a legitimate reaction to perceived disgust with women's bodily fluids and, at worst, a reaction grounded in a wrong assumption.

My main issue of contention here is Bering's argument that Obnoxious Feminists are the primary reason as to why people are unwilling to identify as feminists. First, note his phrase, "thoughtful onlookers"- a phrase that assumes these onlookers are somehow perched on platforms of total objectivity, with no stake at all in feminist or anti-feminist advocacy, having no other factors influencing their opinions about feminism. It is as though the world consists only of (a) self-identified feminists and (b) everyone else, who is a "thoughtful onlooker."

Now, I have a multitude of other explanations as to why people think poorly of feminists, but let's examine the most obvious. Namely, the real world also consists of at least two thriving movements dedicated to defaming feminists and caricaturing all of us as Humorless Feminazi Man-Hating Bitches. These two movements, of course, are the religious right and the men's rights movement (which, consequently, also characterizes feminism as misandry). In addition, liberals and progressives sometimes jump on the feminist-bashing bandwagon, usually when we have the audacity to criticize a Judd Apatow movie or basically do anything other than rectify the plight of the oppressed Muslim woman.

I daresay these defamers of feminism contribute substantially to feminism's shoddy reputation.

Secondly, I call bullshit on Bering's caricature of Nagoski, which he drew after reading a 305 word essay of hers. Not only did Nagoski quickly apologize for and clarify her remark about Bering's homosexuality- demonstrating a rather un-peevish demeanor (which is more than can be said for Bering), but her posts also demonstrate a sense of humor and are not at all "obnoxious."

Rather than being paragons of level-headed objectivity, Bering's charges are over-the-top and not supported by the evidence. His "humorless" jibe is particularly uninspired, proving my rule that the swiftness with which critics lob that canard is inversely proportional to the amount of time they spend actually paying attention to feminist blogs or writers. And, really? Who died and made Bering the big decider of what does and doesn't count as funny? Feminists are some of the funniest people I know. Sure, I don't laugh at farts (that's a lie), or think Adam Sandler, sexist jokes, or guys getting kicked in the balls is funny, but did some new "intriguing new experimental research" suddenly demonstrate that funniness is an objectively measurable thing? (Perhaps measured by the same instrument that quantifies "the modern psyche"?)


Bering used research on the Implicit Associations Test (IAT), which was developed as a device for exploring the unconscious roots of thinking and feeling," to observe that "this negative view of feminism is more than just my personal opinion and in fact runs very deep in the modern psyche."

The study, of course, doesn't show that feminism is objectively sucky, but rather that lots of other people besides Bering think feminism is sucky. Using his own anecdotal bad experience with a feminist in conjunction with this research, he concludes that people hold these negative views because some feminists give all feminists a bad name.

And yes, Cap'n Obvious, just as some people of any ideological stripe suck, some feminists do indeed suck. Yet, rather than exploring why "the modern psyche" attributes the actions of some feminsts to the actions of all feminists, or suggesting that perhaps it is unfair of the "modern psyche" to demand perfection from every single feminist or that maybe other factors, like rightwing anti-feminism, contribute to the negative associations people hold of feminists, Bering ends with a hostile lament of questionable sincerity on the status of feminism:

"What a sad state of affairs for the feminist movement. So there’s my apology, Nagoski. Go stuff it up that hole of yours which is shared by both male and female jackasses alike."

Yet, rather than expressing sadness, Bering's article is a revelry in feminism's bad reputation. It as though other people thinking poorly of feminism somehow makes him more right that Nagoski is a "jackass" or more right that he's not sexist. As though it's a Startling Revelation that lots of people dislike feminists or that it's An Act Of Courageous Proportions to be hostile to one. For, you will notice that he can't really be bothered to use his psych training to explore the "modern psyche's" tendency to wrongly generalize about feminism other than to use it in a petty vendetta against a feminist science blogger. It's all Nagoski Sucks and then, onward ho, to more important things! Indeed, his vitriol, and yes he does have a way with words, at being called a sexist appears infinitely greater than his concern that he might actually be one.

Which brings up the situational irony of it all.

Bering uses the IAT within this sort of I-swear-I'm-not-sexist defense, when the IAT is premised on the idea that we hold prejudices that we are not aware of and will not admit to. For instance, the IAT also finds that many of us hold negative implicit views of black people and gay people, views that we are not always aware of. I took the IAT and found out that I have very strong negative associations with homosexuality. Which, you know, is always awesome for a lesbian to find out.

Now, I don't know what lies in the cockles of Bering's heart or mind. All we know is what he writes. Like many feminists, I'm not fan of men calling girls "bitchy" (it frames social aggression as a female thing when, as Bering demonstrates, it is also a male thing), of calling women "girls" (it's infantilizing) or of them mansplaining to their readers that is an "interesting" blog name given what Jezebel means in the dictionary (as though the founders of had not at all thought of that!)- all of which Bering has done. So, I think there's room for reflection there.

There is also room for psychologists who have their very own columns in popular science magazines, something Bering boasts about in his response, to be genuine allies to feminism. There is room for people, particularly those who pay attention to the movement, to offer sincere, constructive critiques of it in an assertive, not aggressive, manner.

But this? A critique written by a man who admittedly has a "negative personal view of feminism" who pecks out an over-the-top, hostile rant arguing that someone who is involved in feminism is ruining it? Bering's a smart guy who espouses his views on a bigger platform than most feminists get. Unfortunately, acting like the Scientific American's equivalent of Perez Hilton does not embiggen the discourse.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Narratives of Fear in the Gay Culture Wars

[Cross-posted at Our Big Gayborhood]

The other day I analyzed Doe v. Reed, the Supreme Court case rejecting a group's claim that revealing the names of anti-gay referendum signers violated the First Amendment. Relatedly, if you remember, anti-same-sex marriage groups successfully convinced the US Supreme Court to disallow cameras in the Prop 8 trial on the grounds that their already-well-known experts might be harassed.

I have speculated that the anti-same-sex marriage side's real intent with respect to this hiding has been to (a) publicly demonize the LGBT people by framing us as violent villains and (b) keep a substantive on-the-merits debate out of the living rooms of everyday Americans who don't think too much about this issue.

Law professor Marjorie Cohn hypothesizes a similar idea, regarding the Court's decision to disallow cameras in the Prop 8 trial:

"In my opinion, it is no accident that the five majority justices are the conservatives who, in all likelihood, oppose same-sex marriage. Why don’t those who oppose same-sex marriage want people to see this trial?

Perhaps they are mindful of the sympathy engendered by televised images of another civil rights struggle. 'It was hard for people watching at home not to take sides,' David Halberstam wrote about Little Rock in The Fifties. 'There they were, sitting in their living rooms in front of their own television sets watching orderly black children behaving with great dignity, trying to obtain nothing more than a decent education, the most elemental of American birthrights, yet being assaulted by a vicious mob of poor whites.'

The conservative justices may think that televising this trial will have the same effect on the public. Witnesses are describing their love for each other in deeply emotional terms."

Instead of showing compassion for LGBT families who are harmed by anti-equality advocacy, Protect Marriage, National Organization for Marriage, and Americans for Truth [sic] About Homosexuality frame "marriage defenders" as being incredibly harmed by LGBT rights advocacy. While nary a word is uttered from these anti-equality professionals about violence inflicted upon LGBT people, hearing it from them one is led to believe that "marriage defenders" are subject to pervasive and regular assaults by vicious mobs of LGBT people.

Gay people, their narrative goes, are not victims, but perpetrators. As the Texas GOP claims, gay people engage in activity that "tears at the fabric of society." As the signees of the anti-gay Manhattan Declaration have declared, it is the "marriage defense" majority that is incredibly brave and heroic for their advocacy to deny rights to a minority group that, at most, constitutes 10% of the population.

It is "marriage defenders," all of these folks imply or outright claim, who are the real victims, having to endure the unbelievable harassment of being called "bigots" for their political views. They are heroes, they say, because life is tough and scary for an opposer of the homosexual agenda. I do not claim here that all LGBT people are perfect angels or that society isn't facing real family problems. But the anti-gay movement has, for too long, succeeded in channeling all of its anxieties about social ills into homosexuality, irrationally and counter-productively blaming it for issues it has no relation to. For instance, banning same-sex marriage makes heterosexual marriages more stable, how again?

And so within this historical context, the "marriage defense" narrative of fear has a sliver of truth to it. Many "marriage defenders" are, indeed, incredibly afraid of LGBT advocacy.

More than any real or imagined fear of being a victim of violence, lies the scary, unthinkable possibility that, one day, the Americans who focus more on their own families than on the threat of homosexuality will see for themselves, on camera, in their own living rooms, our common humanity. And in that common humanity, Americans will see us, not as one violent, faceless, monolithic group, the entirety of which is damned because of the actions of a small minority, but as a group that is- like heterosexuals- afforded the same right to have some of its members mess up and still be considered deserving of equal rights

And when the homosexual monster of American mythology transforms into a human being, the anti-gay movement will no longer be able to pinpoint who, where, or what the big bogeyman is.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

DOMA Case #2: Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services

Yesterday, we looked at the Gill DOMA case. Today, I have a few items of note about the companion case, Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services (PDF), that also found part of DOMA unconstitutional.

Whereas Gill was an Equal Protection case, this case rests on Massachusetts' argument that DOMA is an unconstitutional federal intrusion into marriage, an area of state authority (the Gill case briefly touched upon this issue as well). With that argument, Judge Tauro agreed.

He began by noting that before, during, and after the framing of the Constitution, states maintained control over marriage status determinations. And, because "to a great extent, rules and regulations regarding marriage respond to local preferences, such regulations have varied significantly from state to state throughout American history." While there have been attempts to codify a single, universal definition of marriage, these attempts failed as "few members of Congress were willing to supersede their own states' power over marriage and divorce."

Despite the variation in marriage laws by state, the federal government respected and "accepted all state marital status determinations for the purposes of federal law." That is, if a couple had a state marriage license, the federal government would recognize the marriage as legitimate and confer federal benefits upon it. For instance, up until 1967, some states prohibited interracial marriage while others allowed it. The federal government relied on these state determinations of marriage status in recognizing a marriage for purposes of federal benefits.

Whereas in 2003, same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, DOMA prohibited the federal government from recognizing these marriages as legitimate for purposes of federal benefits. Thus, DOMA represented a departure from granting state deference to marital status determination. And this departure, Massachusetts argued, has had a negative impact on the operation of state programs.

For instance, one 20-year veteran of the military who was legally married to his same-sex spouse in Massachusetts wished have his spouse buried with him at a military cemetary. While the state wanted to honor his wishes, the federal government- citing DOMA- would not permit a same-sex spouse's burial in this cemetary, although heterosexual spouses of veterans were allowed. As another example, with respect to the state's Medicaid program, DOMA requires the state to assess married same-sex partners as though they are both single, "which has significant financial consequences for the state."

Judge Tauro analyzed this case under a merged Spending Clause and Tenth Amendment application, framing the constitutional issue as whether marital status determination lies exclusively with the states. The Tenth Amendment, if you remember, provides that “[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Thus, every federal law “must be based on one or more of its powers enumerated in the Constitution."

The US government argued that DOMA was based on the Spending Clause of the Constitution, which grants Congress authority to spend money to promote "the general welfare." To this contention, Judge Tauro aptly noted that DOMA touches on many more provisions unrelated to federal spending- including some of the 1,138 federal benefits and privileges associated with marriage. And further, DOMA conditions a state's receipt of federal funds on an unconstitutional denial of marriage-based benefits to same-sex couples. That is, DOMA "induces" states to "violate the equal protection rights of its citizens," which Congress cannot do in utilizing its Spending Powers.

The Court also held that DOMA "plainly intrudes on a core area of state sovereignty- the ability to define the marital status of its citizens." Indeed, the state put forth compelling historical evidence that domestic relations laws were the very "archtype" of local, rather than national, concern.

Now, yesterday, I said that Gill could bode well for the Prop 8 trial, as it involved a federal court striking down an anti-gay law using rational basis review. I still believe that's true. However, with respect to this Massachusetts decision, let's think about what the Court is saying with respect to marital status determination being a matter of state sovereignty and how that relates to the Prop 8 case in California. In California, a federal court is going to decide whether a state referendum defining marriage a certain way is constitutional. Yet, in Massachusetts, a federal court just said that marriage is a matter of state sovereignty. Don't we have a contradiction problem?

Not really.

The US Constitution is the supreme law of the land (see also, Supremacy Clause), meaning that even though marriage is a core area of state sovereignty, the state must still act in a constitutional manner in exercising its sovereignty. So yes, California voters can define marriage as whatever they want... as long as they do not violate the federal constitutional rights of their fellow citizens. Of course, anti-gay folks who don't ever actually read court opinions already think they've identified a cute little gotcha here, and this fact of federalism won't stop anti-gays from howling in protest about special rights and activist judges, but it's a quite simple principle, really.

Anyway, because a few people have emailed me about what the implications of these cases are, I will also briefly address that issue as well.

1) These cases don't make same-sex marriage legal throughout the nation. The issue wasn't regarding the legality of same-sex marriage, but rather whether a law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage that are already legal is constitutional. This FAQ from Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders goes into more detail on consequences of this case.

2) The Gill and Masachusetts decisions are not binding on other district courts or, of course, higher federal courts. These decisions, however, could still be persuasive authority if these particular DOMA issues come up in other federal courts throughout the country. If other courts produce different outcomes, than we'd sort of have a clusterfuck of conflicting federal law.

3) It is not yet clear whether Obama's Department of Justice will appeal these decisions and continue to defend DOMA. On the legislative front, Congress could repeal the law. Which, you know, would make life easier for all of us.

In other important news, I think I've finally learned how to spell Massachusetts.

Monday, July 12, 2010

DOMA Rundown: Gill v. Office of Personnel Management

A federal judge in Massachusetts has ruled that the section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman" is unconstitutional. (PDF)

The effect of DOMA, if you remember, is to prohibit the federal government from granting same-sex couples any of the federal benefits of legal marriage, even if these couples are legally married in a particular state. It's a sweeping, nationwide codification of separate-but-equal status for same-sex couples.

My summary of this case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, follows. (The judge also issued an opinion in a companion case, Massacussetts v. US Department of Health and Human Services, which I will address tomorrow):

Judge Tauro began by looking at the legislative history of DOMA, noting that it was passed as a reaction to a Hawaii Supreme Court decision that indicated a ban on same-sex marriage might be unconstitutional. The House Report on DOMA further indicated a desire to prevent an "orchestrated legal assault" on heterosexual marriage and to prevent "homosexual couples," whom members of Congress repeatedly accused of engaging in "immoral," "depraved," and "unnatural" acts, from receiving federal benefits of marriage. While acknowledging that under the tenets of federalism, "[t]he determination of who may marry in the United States is uniquely a function of state law," the House Report explained that Congress was not supportive of "same-sex 'marriage.'"

That argument is what I like to call the Homo Exception to the conservative states' rights argument. That is, states should have the right to define their own laws. Oh, except when it involves homosexuality. Then the federal government should enact sweeping anti-gay laws for the entire nation, affecting every single state.

Judge Tauro then noted that DOMA's definition of marriage implicated at least 1,049 federal laws, several of which are implicated in this particular case. Because of DOMA, the federal governement denied the same-sex couples in this case federal health benefits, federal dental and vision benefits, a flexible spending arrangement, social security retirement benefits, social security survivor benefits, and the ability to file income taxes jointly.

Under an Equal Protection analysis, Judge Tauro notes that DOMA fails to pass muster even under the most lenient rational basis review, while declining to address the issue of whether strict scrutiny should be applied to laws targeting "homosexuals." I find it troubling that federal courts have not yet applied strict scrutiny to laws against same-sex marriage and have not yet found a fundamental right for same-sex couples to marry. Nonetheless, this opinion is still good news because it doesn't bar the future application of strict scrutiny and it follows a trend, beginning with Romer v. Evans, of courts striking down anti-gay measures under rational basis review. Let's hope this continues with the pending Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision.

Under rational basis, as articulated by Tauro, a law is constitutional if it is "narrow enough in scope and grounded in a sufficient factual context for [the court] to ascertain some relation between the classification and the purpose it serve[s]." Congress' stated purposes of DOMA were four: (1) to encourage responsible procreation, (2) to defend traditional heterosexual marriage, (3) to defend traditional notions of morality, and (4) to preserve scarce resources.

With respect to the first purpose, the government readily conceded that DOMA is in no way rationally related to encouraging responsible heterosexual procreation as preventing same-sex couples from marrying "does nothing to promote stability in heterosexual parenting." That is an interesting development, given that Chuck Cooper grounded his Perry defense of Prop 8 entirely in the Responsible Procreation argument. We'll see soon enough how that works out for him.

Tauro dispatches the second purpose by noting that DOMA does nothing to encourage the plaintiff lesbian and gays to enter into heterosexual marriages because the plaintiffs are already in same-sex marriages. Further, denying marital benefits to same-sex married couples "bears no reasonable relation to any interest the government might have in making heterosexual marriages more secure." Which, of course, falls into the No Shit category.

With respect to the third purpose, constitutional precedent has made clear that the fact that a majority finds a practice to be immoral is not a sufficient justification for upholding a discriminatory law. And, as for the fourth purpose of DOMA, the Court could find "no principled reason" as to why public resources should be conserved at the particular expense of same-sex married couples.

In light of these rather flaccid purposes of DOMA, the government also offered new ex post facto reasons for enacting DOMA. These new reasons essentially boiled down to, to paraphrase, DOMA makes things legally easy for the government by ensuring same-sex couples are consistently denied benefits whether they're legally married or not. That is, the federal government has an interest in ensuring a consistent, uniform definition of marriage.

On that point, Judge Tauro disagreed. Eligibility for marriage in the US has always been a matter of state determination and marriage laws have always varied state by state. "And yet the federal government has fully embraced these variations and inconsistencies in state marriage laws by recognizing as valid for federal purposes any heterosexual marriage which has been declared valid by state law." DOMA, however, "marks the first time that the federal government has ever attempted to legislatively mandate a uniform federal definition of marriage...." and it does so without being rationally related to the proferred purpose of providing consistency in distribution of marriage benefits. Instead, DOMA actually complicates the law, creating a class of legally married people eligible for benefits and a class of legally married people who are ineligible.

To end, let's hear Judge Tauro sum it up:

"[T]his court is soundly convinced, based on the foregoing analysis, that the government’s proffered rationales, past and current, are without 'footing in the realities of the subject addressed by [DOMA].' And 'when the proffered rationales for a law are clearly and manifestly implausible, a reviewing court may infer that animus is the only explicable basis.[Because] animus alone cannot constitute a legitimate government interest,' this court finds that DOMA lacks a rational basis to support it....

Indeed, Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

Via shakesville, I encourage readers to take action for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old Iranian mother of two children, who has been sentenced to death by stoning under Sharia law for adultery.

No word on whether her partner in crime is likewise sentenced to death.

From CNN:

"Sakineh Ashtiani, who is from the northern city of Tabriz, was convicted of adultery in 2006. Some human rights lawyers believe that a language barrier prevented her from fully comprehending court proceedings at the time. She is of Azerbaijani descent and speaks Turkish, not Farsi.

In 2006, she was forced to confess after being subjected to 99 lashes, according to human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei in Tehran. She later retracted that confession and has denied wrongdoing in the matter.

Furthermore, her conviction was based on the determination of three out of five judges, which is strange because Article 74 of the Iranian penal code clearly requires at least four eyewitnesses -- four men or three men and two women -- for an adulterer to receive a stoning death sentence."

The barbarity of stoning aside, notice the level of deference Shariah law grants to the authoritative male voice. The testimony of two women equals that of one man.

But back to the stoning, in addition to contacting your Senators, Representatives, and the US Dept of State, you can sign a petition here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wherein I Belatedly Ruin Fun on Independence Day

Via the AP:

"Library of Congress officials say Thomas Jefferson made a Freudian slip while penning a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.
In an early draft of the document Jefferson referred to the American population as 'subjects,' replacing that term with the word 'citizens,' which he then used frequently throughout the final draft....

Donning a pair of white researchers' gloves, Maria Nugent, director of the Library of Congress' top treasures collection, slowly lifted a piece of off-white corrugated cardboard to reveal the rough draft of the Declaration, which includes handwritten corrections by both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

'That's a pretty good editorial committee,' said Billington, who was present for the procedure."

Har har har.

While I believe the above-referenced editorial committee was on the right track with their Declaration, my patriotism is not so blind as to demand the recognition of brilliance in men who only found inalienable rights in less than half of humanity.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Texas GOP: Turning Gays Into Illegal Aliens

The Texas Republican Party has released its platform. Its archaic provisions regarding homosexuality have been getting a lot of talk lately, and while the anti-gay lifestyles of Texas Republicans fall squarely into the No Surprise There bucket of Bozo the Clown's grand prize game, the extremity of this group's vision for America is rather startling.

See, whenever a political document goes into more detail about homosexuality and reproductive (non)rights for women, visions of The Handmaid's Tale begin dancing through my head while I simultaneously observe that Christian American phenomenon that is Caring Much More About Homosexuality And Abortion Than Privately Worshipping One's Religion. Freedom of religion means, apparently, the freedom to enshrine the Christian equivalent of Sharia law into our shared legal system. Even though, ironically, the Texas Gop platform adamantly opposes recognizing the Qur'an-based Sharia law in the US. Basing a legal system on a fundamentalist religion is bad, you see, except when that legal system is based in the "Judeo-Christian" Bible.

Moving on, let's watch how the Texas GOP gets down with its bad self, attempting to transform lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) citizens into illegal aliens.

1) Denial of Benefits

After defining marriage as "only between a natural man and a natural woman" (they neglect to define "natural"), the Texas GOP calls on Congress and all states to (a) ratify federal and state amendments to their respective constitutions to define marriage as one man and one woman, (b) to not recognize rights for any family unit that is not heterosexual and legally married, and (c) to not recognize domestic parrtner rights.

For starters, notice how the Texas GOP wants all states and the federal government to adopt its extreme anti-gay values. The double-standard there is that, in its very first section entitled "Preserving American Freedom," the Texas GOP demands that other states and the federal government recognize its state sovereignty. Whereas the Texas GOP doesn't want to adopt other states' values, it wants other states and the federal government to adopt Texas GOP values.

Then, in addition to explicitly defining same-sex couples out of the word "family," the GOP states its opposition to the granting of "special privileges" to gay people, "special privileges" like "custody of children" and "partner insurance or retirement benefits." Of course, these "special privileges" are privileges and rights that heterosexuals already get. But by framing these rights as "special privileges," the Texas GOP tries to clumsily two-step around the fact that they actually want to create an unequal category of citizen while letting heterosexual families be more equal than all others.

The Texas GOP later elaborates on the custody bit:

"We also believe that no homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child, and that visitation with minor children by such persons should be prohibited but if ordered by the court limited to supervised periods."

One of these things is not like the other.

Notice here how the GOP groups "homosexual" with convicted child abusers and molesters. Whereas heterosexuals are not categorically barred from winning custody or having visitation with their kids because they are presumed to be fit parents, the GOP presumes all gay people to be unfit parents, indistinguishable from convicted child abusers and molesters. This is an unacceptable defamation of all gay parents.

Now, most Americans favor granting same-sex families some rights, such as domestic partnerships and insurance benefits. And many folks would readily concede the fact that a "homosexual" could be a good parent. So also note the extremity in the Texas GOP's aggressive desire to strip all of these rights away from us, and to do so in every single state. Again, not a huge surprise, but this isn't a Peter LaBarbera or MassResistance article, it's official policy positions of one of the two major political parties in one of the most populous states in America.

2) Criminalization of Homosexuality

Of particular note is the Texas GOP's desire to criminalize homosexuality. For one, they would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple or for a civil official to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. A felony. As in, prison.

And two, the Texas GOP opposes the legalization of "sodomy." They fail to define sodomy, so it's not clear whether this refers to two men, two women, or any sexual behavior other than heterosexual intercourse, but I would be willing to bet that it at least refers to same-sex sexual behavior, given the tone and context of the rest of the platform.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are defined in part by sexual relationships with those of the same-sex. By criminalizing one of the defining features of what makes us who we are, the Texas GOP precludes LGB people from a legal existence. In the same way that undocumented immigrants are automatically classified as "illegal" by virtue of existing in America illegally, existing as an LGB person in the Texas GOP's utopian world would also be illegal.

To draw on this parallel, throughout its platform, the Texas GOP emphasizes that "illegal aliens" should be prohibited from receiving various state benefits such as welfare and state/federal loans and grants. That moral issue aside, let's note that by categorically denying benefits to LGB people and same-sex couples, the Texas GOP is treating citizen LGB people as though we are illegal aliens who do not belong in their country, in their state, and in their land utilizing their resources (that we contribute to).

Despite boasting over and over again that America is a Christian nation with Christian values, this document shows no empathy, love, or compassion. Instead, the Texas GOP marks homosexualty as a deviant difference that sinsterly "tears at the fabric of society," and then uses that vague, unquantifiable claim to justify heterosexual dominance, superiority, and greater access to state resources. This platform goes further, much further, than a simple desire to ensure only one man and one woman can legally marry. It demands the extermination, elimination, or assimilation of LGB people and families by treating us as a disease upon society and pressuring LGB people to form heterosexual families in exchange for equal rights.

During the closing arguments of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, "marriage defense" attorney Chuck Cooper claimed that it was "a slur on the 7 million Californians who voted on Prop 8" to say that they were motivated by something "dark." He claimed that most people who voted for Prop 8 did not do so because they hate gay people, but out of a mere innocent desire to preserve marriage as one man and one woman. Yes, that was California and this is Texas. But state borders didn't stop the Mormons and other out-of-state individuals and groups from weighing in on the Prop 8 debate, so herein lies the civil "marriage defender's" big chance to prove how much they don't hate gay people.

I call on the "7 million Californians" who voted on Prop 8 and who love gay people to acknowledge and renounce the Texas GOP's hateful anti-gay platform that turns law-abiding citizens into illegal aliens.

Maggie Gallagher? David Blankenhorn?


We are waiting.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fun With Contradictions

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church #239.

"[God] is neither man nor woman: he is God."

First, note the contradiction contained in that authoritative sentence. In a rational world, that sort of glaring blind spot would make logical folks question the validity of everything else the utterer of such an absurdity says about god.

Two, although the Catholic Church alleges that god is neither man nor woman, Catechism Paragraph 2 "The Father," which contains the above contradiction, refers to god in the unambiguously male gendered terms as follows: "Father" 96 times, "Son" 72 times, and "he" and "him" countless times.

Exactly once within this paragraph, the Catechism concedes "God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood." Not as Mother, mind you. But as an abstract "image of motherhood," lest anyone take the idea of god as an actual female being too literally.

In spite of that one concession, that's still a hell of a lot of translating that women, mothers, and daughters have to do to see themselves reflected in god. Relatedly, that's a hell of a lot of reinforcement to men, fathers, and sons that they are synonmyous with god and uniquely closer to "him" than everybody else.

It's time for the holy males of the Catholic Church to confess. Although god is not a man, they have indeed made man god.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Because Regular Computers Are For Men

Apparently, Samsung is targeting its new netbook to the ladies. Because women, who deviate from the human norm of the category "male," are unable to use regular netbooks, this one will have special lady-friendly perks like being "super-light" and having "tiny features."

Ironically, 3 of the 4 comments following this article were by men, all saying how excited they were for a lighter, thinner computer.

I'm guessing it won't be pink then.

Friday, July 2, 2010

It Depends On How You Define "Any"

When Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, she barred the military from recruiting through the office of career services, in accordance with Harvard's policy of "shunning prospective employers who discriminate based on sexual orientation."

As expected, she is now facing criticism for this decision during her Supreme Court confirmation process. As the Christian Science Monitor reports (in the link above):

"The action was controversial because it came at a time when the United States was at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. By November 2004, 1,410 coalition forces had died in Iraq, and 196 had been killed in Afghanistan.
To many Americans – including those with family and friends on overseas deployments – any effort to restrict military recruitment endangers US service members and the country."

Any by "any," I suppose they aren't including the ban on openly gay people who are otherwise fully qualified to serve within the scope of efforts that "endangers US service members and the country." I guess it's the special Homo Exception to the "restrictions on military recruiting endangers our security" meme.

Just so we're clear.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Re-Centering Men in Conversations About Gender-Based Violence

[Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault]

While male athletes have been playing their Very Important Sport Game that "unites the world," a South African doctor concerned about the increased likelihood of male-on-female sexual assault that this game will bring with it has created an anti-rape condom for women to test during the World Cup:

"The anti-rape condom, called 'Rape-aXe,' features rows of jagged hooks designed to attach to a man's penis during penetration. Once attached, the condom can only be removed by a doctor - hopefully when authorities can arrest him, Dr. Sonnet Ehlers, the condom's designer, told CNN."

I have mixed thoughts about this product. There is something retributionally satisfying about a rapist having his weapon put temporarily out of commission in this way. And yes, this product will make some men think twice about their entitlement to engage in sexual violence. Yet it continues to place the onus of rape prevention primarily on women, rather than men or society. What is being done in any systemic way, for instance, to address male sexual entitlement, especially when large groups of men congregate in areas where women lack power for purposes of engaging in tribalistic behaviors?.

Following the article, of course, it took all of about 3.1 seconds before commenters turned the conversation to men and, specifically, how Scorned and Conniving Women would wear these condoms on innocent unsuspecting men:

"This device could be used on the willing. 40% of all rape reports are false. What's to stopped a woman scorned from inserting this thing, seducing her intended and then having him convicted for rape? If I were a man, I would get a notarized statement prior to ever having sex with anyone. I really do empathize with men who are falsely accused of sex crimes. This could be a vehicle through which that could happen. I think a stun gun would be a better self defense device."

Because a stun gun could never be used on non-rapist man? Here you see the prioritization of harm to to non-penis areas of a man's body. If a man is harmed in his penis, the one defining feature that he thinks distinguishes him from women, it is considered especially egregious, whereas harm to other parts of his body is more manageable.

Of course, this commenter also claimed that South Africa is a matriarchy, which makes men angry, which makes men understandbly rape women, so right off we know that hir grasp on reality is a bit iffy. (For background, male-on-female domestic and sexual violence is widespread in South Africa, with women disproportionately living with HIV/AIDS in part because of rape and inability to negotiate safer sex.)

Nonetheless, comments like these are helpful in illustrating another way Rape Culture works. Commenter after commenter expressed concern and outrage over this new "terrorist weapon" against men and how women were going to start playing "pranks" on men with this device. This concern, which of course re-centers men within a conversation about rape, effectively prioritizes the safety of the class that disproportionately commits gender-based violence over the safety of those who are disproportionately on the receiving end of it. Women, they say, should not be able to take this precautionary measure that might prevent violence to themselves because it might harm innocent men in the process.

This re-centering of the male viewpoint, comes down to entitlement, really. If a measure harms men in any manner whatsoever, or has the potential to be used against men in an "unfair" manner, it should be disallowed. Even if it causes more women to "get raped."

Sadly, these comments demonstrate that this device won't actually "prove" sexual assault. All it will prove is that vaginal penetration occurred; it doesn't prove a woman's consent or lack thereof. Defense attorneys will argue that the woman wore the device to lure in and entrap a poor, unsuspecting man and, sadly, I suspect that defense will often work.

Ending the article, the doctor-inventor addresses some of her critics who accuse the device of being from the Middle Ages:

"Yes, my device may be medieval, but it's for a medieval deed that has been around for decades. I believe something's got to be done ... and this will make some men rethink before they assault a woman."

Decades, eh?

Now that's being a bit generous to the rapist class.