Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fannie's Faves of 2010

Wahoo! Here's a list of some of my favorite things I read or played in 2010 (these items weren't necessarily released in 2010):

1) Comics

I stopped reading dude comics many years ago once I came to the realization that women weren't represented, or represented well, in many of them. (Yeah, I wasn't the fastest to pick up on that). I resumed the habit several years ago when Joss Whedon and company continued Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 via comic book.

The biggest plus of Season 8 is that the writers have really taken advantage of the comic book format to take the story where it would have been near impossible (or incredibly costly) to go in tv or film. For instance, without divulging too much to those who haven't read it yet, Season 8 includes time travel, slayer fights in flying cars, some interesting body changes for Dawn, and Angel and Buffy fucking all over the universe (literally). For those of us who cried when BTVS ended, the comics have been a fun way to stay in touch with the Scoobies we adore.

Of course, I won't be fully satisfied until they bring Tara back. Make it happen, Jane. Kthx!


2) Video Games

I'm not a huge gamer, but I do have a tendency to get really into good Xbox games that are brought to my attention. Thanks to Sarah (who comments here), I was finally convinced to give Mass Effect 1 and 2 a try. What I liked most about these games is that one can make a female avatar, that it passes the Bechdel Test, that it's a neat sci-fi story, and that same-sex relationships are a feature of the game.

Really, given that it doesn't take much to make me a happy gaming customer, it's sad that gaming companies fail so often.


3) Books

Nonfiction: A Church of Her Own, Sarah Sentilles. (My review is here).

Science/speculative fiction: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (My review is here).

Lilith's Brood, Octavia Butler (My review is here).

Fiction: When I'm not reading nonfiction or sci-fi/spec fiction, I am most drawn to novels about everyday nobodies. Sure, I like a Patricia Cornwell Scarpetta novel as much as the next lesbian, but it's the characters who aren't, say, millionaire computer geniuses who brilliantly fly helicopters through snowstorms that inevitably knock me on my ass with the realization that I genuinely care about these figments of another person's imagination.

A great storyteller, in my humble opinion, is one who invites us to look closely at, rather than turn our heads from, some of life's brutal realities, and who then keep the artist's implicit promise for a glimpse of beauty, or at least truth, within the grit. Michelle Tea, one of my favorite authors, does this well. I relate to many of the characters in her novels, as they tend to be queer women and girls who come from working-class backgrounds with absentee (at best) parents.

Reminscent of the memoirs of Augusten Burroughs, Tea reminds us that in crappy life situations, sometimes the truth is that gallows humor gets us through. From Rose of No-Man's Land:

"People always say to me that they wish they had my family.... Really these people are massively wrong. It's like when guys say 'Oh if I had tits I'd stay home and play with them all day, I'd never get out of bed.'...

The sort of funny thing is that all Ma does is lie around and fiddle with her boobs, but it's because she's a hypochondriac and she's terrified she has breast cancer all the time."


Lilian Nattel (who has a blog of her own and sometimes comments here in Fannie's Room), also capably blends grittiness with insight. Whereas Tea sometimes uses humor, Nattel has a gift for revealing profound observations with the sensibilities of a poet. For instance, in The Singing Fire, within the particulars of her characters, a perhaps-universal truth is illuminated at the theatre:

"The human heart, knowing it will die alone, needs to belong to others so it can live; those others who are somehow like us- and in being like us raise us out of the uncountable billions that rise and fall, rise and fall, unremarkable as ants, as cells, as the hands clapping when the curtain rises, torchlights burning at the foot of the stage."


In this story of two women living in late 19th-century London, Nattel then uses this continuing theme of the theatre to raise issues of identity, religion, gender, class, and parenting in subtle layers. Throughout, the reader is invited to question which aspects of ourselves are performances and which are authentically "us." It is a treat to read, particularly from a feminist perspective with Judith Butler in mind.


4) Blogs

Shakesville: Other than Fannie's Room, Shakesville is perhaps my favorite place to on the web to hang out and talk about politics and anything else that strikes my fancy. In addition to the astute writing by all of the contributors, I especially appreciate the effort the moderators put into making it a safe space for discussion. It is a rare nook of the web where civility is the norm. The dog and cat pics are an additional bonus.

Geek Feminism Blog: Another blog I've really gotten into this year is Geek Feminism Blog. As a lady gamer and sci-fi fan, I know that geek communities and media can be sexist and unwelcoming to women, so I appreciate a blog devoted to exploring the intersections of geekdom and feminism.

Sociological Images: I also have been regularly reading the consistently-excellent Sociological Images blog. Its analyses of the visual imagery that surrounds us serves as a consistent reminder that escaping the socializing effects of gender stereotyping would be, no exaggeration, impossible.


Those are some of my favorites, what are yours?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Anti-Feminist Deception

[TW: Gender-based violence]

Making its rounds in the MRA/woman-hating circuit is this article by Caroline Glick which deigns to expose feminism as a "fraud." I know the MRA crowd has been figuratively jerking off to this partiuclar article, since roughly a third of the articles I regularly receive via my Google Alert for "feminism" would more accurately be categorized as "anti-feminism."

In this article, Glick first begins by mocking a group of "manly looking women" who "would likely all describe themselves as feminists" who appear on youtube taking a political stand in support of Palestine. It is not clear on what other basis Glick determines that these women are feminists, perhaps because they appear "manly" to her, but she then concludes that "if these anti-Israel female protesters are feminists, then feminism is dead." Glick continues by claiming that Secretary of State Clinton has singled out Israel for its poor treatment of women "while keeping nearly mum on the institutionalized, structural oppression of women and girls throughout the Muslim world."

Now, the media declares feminism dead on pretty much an hourly basis and Glick does nothing new here by observing the actions of a few "feminists" and then naively believing that these "feminists" represent the entirety of feminism, a movement which is, apparently, a monolithic thing.

I've addressed that "why are feminists focusing on x, when there are women in the Middle East who have it so much worse" argumentation before as it's one that is steeped in ignorance. While people who level this charge condemn western feminists for supposedly not caring enough about Muslim women, the only women these folks seem to care about are Muslim ones. It's as though if western feminists are devoting 100% of their time and energy toward solving the plight of Muslim women, the whole entire feminist movement Isn't Doing Any Good At All.

Unlike many rightwing ideologues, many feminists approach Middle Eastern politics with nuance, not particularly eager to replace one patriarchal One True God religion and violent male-dominated theocracy in a region with another. And that, I believe, is why rightwing ideologues hate feminism so much. We see through the concern trolling.

Politics, especially politics that serve male dominance, are often games of projection and reversals, whether intended or not. And so it is that we observe Glick's claim that feminism is a leftwing conspiracy to impose "the Left’s social and political agenda against Western societies." (And yes, by mistaking "the Left" for a feminist movement, Glick shows even more ignorance of modern western feminism).

But I digress.

It's funny that Glick would make this accusation about feminism being a tool of a leftwing plot to conquer the world, because don't you often get the feeling that anti-feminists' criticism of the Muslim Treatment of Women inevitably serves the higher purpose of trying to advance the western Right's social, political, corporate, religious, and sexist agenda against Muslim societies?

As a case in point, I offer the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010, a bill "that would ensure that child marriage is recognized as a human rights violation, and develop comprehensive strategies to prevent such marriages around the world." Child marriage is a problem in the Middle East, including in some Muslim countries.

Only 12 Republicans supported this bill and, therefore, the House of Representatives failed to pass it. Republicans opposed this bill because they thought it was too expensive and, although the language says nothing about abortion, they thought it might still somehow allow girls whose bodies might be torn apart in childbirth to get abortions.

The western Right cares about Muslim women alright. Well, at least they do if western feminists can be demonized or if it's not too expensive to actually do something about the plight of women or if taking action that would help girls doesn't conflict with the right to control a girl's reproduction.

And we're supposed to ally ourselves with these rightwing ideologues?

Please.

And, natch, we'll all wait for the rightwing or MRA criticism and Republicanism-is-dead heralding that is sure to be leveled at the Republicans for this failure to properly defend girls and women.

(Crickets)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Buying Masculinity

Others have noted the homoerotic um, admiration, that many rightwing men channel toward "authoritarian strongmen" like Vladimir Putin, men who display hyper-masculine traits. Labeling traits like strength, virility, and violence as those that are essentially male, and then vaunting these traits as superior to their "opposite" female counterparts, the line between whether a man wants to, say, be Putin, or be with Putin, does seem to be blurred at times.

Indeed, reading many rightwing, anti-woman, and/or MRA-type (the lines between these groups often blur, as well) sites in the blogosphere, it is appalling to imagine some male commenters as fathers, brothers, and sons. Mostly because those nouns often imply that such men have real-life relationships with women, for whose safety I am incredibly concerned.

Homosexuality might appear to be a logical response to woman-hating, were it not for the inconvenient fact that men who hate women are often too insecure to fathom having an intimate relationship with a gender equal, another man, as such a relationship would not be based on the sexual hierarchy of man-on-top-(of-woman). While many anti-gay people claim that they are not scared of gays, homophobia nonetheless seems an apt word for men who fear equality in their personal relationships and interactions. They fear being "the same as" others, especially women.

In seeking to preserve male privilege and power, rightwing woman-haters display an extreme anxiety about hyper-masculinity being exposed as the mere performance it is.

And with that introduction I present the following column by Doug Giles, writing at Townhall, who has compiled a list of man-gifts for Real Men. If it weren't posted at Townhall, I would have taken it as a feminist parody of the caricature that misogynist and misandrist gender essentialists paint of men.

But alas, no.

The biggest question about its authenticity instead rests in whether the piece is a legitimate article or a tacky advertisement-in-disguise for the brands Giles highlights.

What is abundantly clear is that it's an advertisement for that performance of manly man-ness that is associate with power over others, as each item either literally or figuratively represents that inherent position of men. Because this list of man-gifts is supposedly what Real Men, on the basis of them being men, would like to receieve, the article frames this dominance as authentic maleness. It is the classic, This Is How Men Just Are Ooga Booga gender essentialist bullshit narrative that is at once condescending toward men, while also justifying and excusing male violence.

Giles begins by bemoaning those "fussy metrosexuals" and contrasting them to his manly buds:

"The patriots I run with, however, are pretty easy to satisfy. Herewith are my suggestions for what to get the man on your list who doesn’t mind being a man but rather celebrates the gift of living in the God-blessed testosterone fog."


Men are basically a mixutre of Paul Revere and cavemen, still running amok through the countryside, unable to control their manly testosterone-laden impulses. Boys are entitled to stay boys forever, entitled to run on pure id, letting everyone else deal with the consequences.

Because men are inherently that way, they'd love to receive:

1) Boots

The better to stand on your neck with, m'lady? Who knows. What matters is that men need a specific boot from Zimbabwe. From a $pecific boot company, actually.

2) A gun

I note here that embedded within this article is a klassy advertisement wherein Nancy Pelosi's head is pasted within that old Nintendo Duck Hunt game. No word on how those Red State Feminists feel about that violent call to arms, although we can guess how they'd feel if it were Sarah Palin's image readers were urged to shoot at.

3) A knife

From a specific kife company, natch.

4) A bible

From a specific bible company.

5) Something called a "'Who Would Jesus Whip' power band'" which is, apparently, a product Doug Giles, the author of this article, created.

It's basically a knock-off Livestrong bracelet that advocates violence. Violence is apparently okay when it's violence Jesus Would Have Done. Jesus ain't no girlyman!

6) Like the bible, three more books by dudes about dudes.

One about the "original intent" of the "founding fathers," one about a Christian pastor, and another about warriors.

7) A painting

Painted by Doug Giles, author of this article.


He saved the best gifts for last:

8) A cigar

Not just any cigar. But a specific Cuban type of cigar known for its "big ring gauges." Because, "'If you’re going to smoke a cigar, make it a long and strong one.'"

9) Real Man Juice, which is a specific brand of whiskey with a dude's name all over it. One that's "complex, powerful, incredibly smooth and retains the [Real Man] signature smokiness."


Got it, fellas? All that, and masculinity can be yours! For the not-so-cheap price of.... wait, how much does all this shit cost again?

On a serious note, I don't actually think many rightwing men who fetishize hyper-masculinity are gay, although some undoubtedly are. Although being a Real Man is supposedly something a Real Man just is, accessories must be bought, books must be read, violence-advocating bracelets must be worn, and actions must be taken to prove to others that one is a Real Man. It is a culture that is overinfatuated with the romanticized idea of what Real Men Are. It is a culture that builds men up by tearing women and femininity down.

To be a Real Man is to be better than to be a woman, and what distinguishes men from the lowly woman, in their eyes, is the phallus. So as they clench their teeth around that long and strong cigar, they thank their god with all their femiphobic might that they weren't born female.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lady Director Thingy

As a blogger, I often receive emails from people asking me to promote their products, articles, or blogs on my site for their own commercial purposes. I usually decline because, well, nothing chaps my ass more than someone basically saying "It's awesome that you've built up a base of readers over the years in your commercial-free space. Awesome for me that is. Please promote my product for free and let me make money off of you and your readers!"

And let me tell you, some of these "offers" to promote certain products/websites are indeed incredibly sucky. Like, people-asking-me-to-promote-lesbian-teen-porn-on-my-feminist-lesbian-blog sucky. I mean, have these people even read my blog?!

Moving on. For those of you who already use Netflix (as I do), I did receive an email about a non-sucky Netflix feature that some of you might be interested if you're already using Netflix. Some folks have created a site/filter that allows you to search for movies made by female directors and add them to your queue.

It acknowledges that "less than 1% of movies on Netflix are female directed" and that women are also vastly under-represented among writers, producers, editors, and cinematographers in the film industry.

Less than 1%, huh? So there's what, like 12 movies on Netflix we can watch? And, factoring in whether these movies pass the Bechdel Test, we'd probably be down to, what, like 3 movies?

Sadly, I wish I was kidding. Anyway, I'm not endorsing this thing and I've certainly received no compensation for this post. I'm just letting you know it's out there if you get annoyed, as I do, about the dude-centricity of Netflix.

Aren't I such a good advertiser?

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Holy Mothers

Late theologian Mary Daly reminds us that when men start doing the things that women do, it has a tendency to become Very Important Business. Religion, of course, is no exception. She writes:

"Virginia Wolf, who died of being both brilliant and female, wrote that women are condemned by society to function as mirrors, reflecting men at twice their actual size. When this basic principle is understood, we can understand something about the dynamics of the Looking Glass society. Let us examine once again the creature's speech.

That language for millenia has affirmed the fact that Eve was born from Adam, the first among history's unmarried pregnant males who courageously chose childbirth under sedation rather than abortion, consequently obtaining a child bride. Careful study of the documents recording such achievements of Adam prepared the way for the arrival of the highest of the higher religions, whose priests took Adam as teacher and model. They devised a sacramental system which functioned magnificently within the sacred House of Mirrors.

Graciously, they lifted from women the onerous power of childbirth, christening it 'baptism.' Thus they brought the lowly material function of birth, incompetently and even grudgingly performed by females, to a higher and more spiritual level. Recognizing the ineptitude of females in performing even the humble 'feminine' tasks assigned to them by the Divine Plan, the Looking Glass priests raised these functions to the supernatural level in which they alone had competence. Feeding was elevated to become Holy Communion. Washing achieved dignity in Baptism and Penance....

In order to stress the obvious fact that all females are innately disqualified from joining the Sacred Men's Club, the Looking Glass priests made it a rule that their members should wear skirts....[The] necessary accoutrements included delicate white lace tops and millinery of prescribed shapes and colors. The leaders were required to wear silk hose, pointed hats, crimson dresses and ermine capes, thereby stressing detachment from lowly material things and dedication to the exercise of spiritual talent."

-From Beyond God the Father

Daly ends by encouraging women to stop reflecting and start becoming. For only then will the holy men, who gaze at their own magnified reflections, come to stop believing in their superior size.

Fun fact: Statistically speaking, it is extremely likely that all of the reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh are female, as males typically lose their antlers before Christmas.

But do we really expect reality to get in the way of some good male-magnifying mythology this time of year?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Odds 'N Ends (Again)

Let's just call this the "WTF is wrong with people?" edition.

1. [TW: Gender policing; transphobia] In San Francisco, Amber Yust went to apply for a new driver's license. Four days later, she received a personal letter from the DMV employee who processed her application. Now, using someone's private information obtained in the course of a state government job for personal reasons is, in itself, highly unprofessional and, depending on the facts, possibly illegal. That alone is a fire-able offense.

In this case, however, the DMV employee contacted the DMV customer, who by the way happens to be a transgender woman, for purposes of informing her that her gender change was "a very evil decision." Begin the countdown until anti-LGBT groups start invoking the DMV employee's special "religious freedom" right to mis-use a customer's private information for purposes of being an asshole. And also, you can set the timer for when those anti-LGBT hate groups highlight this Poor DMV Employee's inevitable firing as an instance of Political Correctness Gone Too Far.

WTF is wrong with people?

2. The South Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans are co-sponsoring a "secession ball, where folks will pay $100 a ticket to don formal period-wear and party like it's 1860.

Because this is a thing that's really going to happen in the real world, the NACCP will be holding a peaceful march on the day of the ball. The Sons of the Confederacy, however, assure us that this isn't about celebrating slavery, it's just about celebrating the great courage of the men who tried to uphold slavery. In the words of the Sons of the Confederacy "division commander":

“'We could look back and say (the Civil War) wasn’t something to celebrate – about 620,000 died in the North and South,' Simpson said. 'If you count civilians, you’re up to about a million killed in that war.

'Do we celebrate that? Heavens no,' he said. 'War and death is never something to celebrate. But we do celebrate the courage and the integrity of 170 men who signed their signatures to the Article of Secession – the courage of men to do what they think is right.'”


Seriously, WTF is wrong with people?

3. So, in addition to marriage, the LGBT community also can't have the rainbow now.

W. T. F. is wrong with people?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Odds 'N Ends

1. Writing in Religious Dispatches, Mark Berger writes of the problem of sexual abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities:

There’s nothing to suggest that sexual abuse is any more or less prevalent in the Orthodox community than anywhere else; but there are a number of peculiarities to Orthodox Jewish life that have made the reporting of abuse less common than in society at large.

'I think the subject of abuse is probably the same in any religious community,' says Michael Salomon, a Long Island psychiatrist, who has just finished working on an as-yet-unpublished book about sexual abuse in the Orthodox world.

'Different religions use different justifications for not reporting,' he says. 'But it comes down to the theory that religious issues should be handled within the religious community, even though the powers that be within the community do not have the power to investigate and to prosecute.'”


Berger continues by noting similarities in the way the Catholic Church and the Orthodox community have handled abuse allegations:

"Both are closed, conservative communities. Both have a hierarchy and an infrastructure built around the idea that they are responsible for policing themselves. And both are deeply suspicious of the outside world and its values. Catholic and Orthodox officials even joined forces last year to block a bill in the New York State legislature that would have temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on abuse claims."


Of course, the Catholic Church and Orthodox Judaism have another key similarity, their respective woman problems, not that Berger mentions that. As more abuse is exposed within these and similar patriarchal religious communities, perhaps a national conversation will begun to be had about how, when men make themselves god, they will preserve and prioritize that dominance above all else. Yes, even the children.


2. So "progressive" hero Michael Moore has posted bail for Julian Assange. Like a couple of male commenters who popped up here to tell us wacky feminists that they Just Know Assange's accusers are lying about the sex crime allegations against him as part of a sinister government conspiracy, Michael Moore joins the rape apologist chorus:

"For those of you who think it’s wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he’s being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please — never, ever believe the 'official story.' And regardless of Assange’s guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself."


Yep, he does have the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. And sure, he admits uncertainty over "Assange's guilt or innocence." But by telling those who are troubled by all of the rape apologist narratives going on right now that we are just naive, he implies that Assange is, actually, innocent and that we just Don't Know How Things Work by, you know, actually believing a woman who says a powerful man might have raped her.

Sady at Tiger Beatdown has started a Twitter campaign to pressure Moore to explain his fauxgressive stance on sexual assault. Consider joining in if you Tweet.


3. 5 gender essentialist myths, busted.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In Which Gay = Male, Again

Silly me for thinking that when former President Jimmy Carter said we might be ready for a gay president, we were actually talking about a president that could be either male or female.

Maureen Dowd, and those she cites, confirms yet again that in cultural narratives about "gay" rights, the default gay is still a gay man. She writes:

"Others feel we’re not ready for a gay president, citing the fear and loathing unleashed by the election of the first black president. 'Can you imagine how much a gay president would have to overcompensate to please the macho ninnies who control our national debate?' Bill Maher told me. 'Women like Hillary have to do it, Obama had to do it because he’s black and liberal, but a gay president? He’d have to nuke something the first week.'”

I called Barney Frank, assuming the gay pioneer would be optimistic. He wasn’t. 'It’s one thing to have a gay person in the abstract,' he said. 'It’s another to see that person as part of a living, breathing couple. How would a gay presidential candidate have a celebratory kiss with his partner after winning the New Hampshire primary? The sight of two women kissing has not been as distressful to people as the sight of two men kissing.'”


Gay men often cite that "straight dudes love watching ladies kiss" rule as proof that the public isn't as "distressed" by queer women as they are by gay men. What they fail to consider is that the above rule usually only holds true if the two women's looks are in compliance with conventional standards of beauty. That is, if they're hot according to, not just the straight male eye, but the queer male eye as well. But more on that in a minute.

The gay-male centricity in this narrative about whether we're ready for a gay president perhaps illustrates that the thought of a woman president, any woman president, is still too unimagineable for some to even hypothetically consider.

Yet oddly, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign told Maureen Dowd: "[A] lesbian would have a better shot at the presidency than a gay man. 'People are more comfortable with women than they are with men because of stereotypes with gay men about hypersexuality,' he said."

You know, as a real life lesbian myself, I've found that once you scratch the surface of someone's homophobia and remind them that queer women exist too, we often find that people aren't actually more comfortable with queer women. We are an afterthought, mostly. But still a deviant, immoral, and/or ridicule-worthy one in many people's eyes.

Someone named Andre Leon Talley, who is apparently a "Vogue visionary," adds his two cents by basically demonstrating that some gay dudes (or maybe just him) don't really take the idea of a female president seriously. What would be most important about a lady president would be, natch, her outfits:

"[He] pictures a lesbian president who looks like Julie Andrews and dresses to meet heads of state in 'ankle-length skirts, grazing the Manolo Blahnik kitten heels.' She would save her 'butch trouser suit for weekends at Camp David and vacation hikes in Yellowstone. No plaid lumberjack shirts at any time.'”


Har har har-wait a minute, I thought stereotyping was wrong. Oh, that rule only applies to "gays"?

But seriously, after Dowd gives us quote after quote about how it is unfair to gay men that negative stereotypes define them as oversexed sissies (and it is unfair), we learn from these men that (a) being a lesbian is so much easier and (b) that a lesbian president would be subject to some serious fashion policing, this time grounded in the lesbian lumberjack stereotype, effectively demonstrating that contrary to popular gay male opinion and no matter her sexual orientation, a female president's campaign for the highest office in our land would be no fucking walk in the park.

Male privilege FAIL.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Makeover!

Hello everyone. As you can see, interior decorators have come into Fannie's Room and made some big changes around these parts. A big tip of my sombrero goes out to my special friend hammerpants for, basically, doing all the heavy lifting and design work.

I have also switched to the DISQUS commenting system, as js-kit echo was giving me a lot of problems, not the least of which was that their customer service was non-responsive in offering assistance from their end.

You may have noticed that previous comments are not showing up yet. All old comments have been saved, and I will be working to import them into the new DISQUS system so old conversations will not be lost in the aether.

For now, I am going to let people comment without having to sign in. Although I have mixed thoughts on allowing people to comment who go solely by the "anonymous" or "guest" non-identity, I also want to eliminate commenting barriers for well-intentioned commenters. If you choose, you can create a DISQUS profile, which you can also use on other blogs using the DISQUS system, or you can also login and comment under other profiles you may have, such as in twitter, yahoo, or openid. If you don't use an avatar, your default will be Velma. Just 'cuz.

Also, as someone requested it, DISQUS does allow you to edit your comments. If you choose to edit your comment, please indicate that you have done so, for instance, by saying something like "Edited to fix typo."

If you have any other suggestions or features you'd like to see, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

I hope you like the changes. Thanks for hanging out in Fannie's Room!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Commenting Issues

Hello all-

As you might have noticed, my commenting system run by Echo is misbehaving. From what I've seen around the web, other bloggers using this system are experiencing problems as well. For now, try using a different browser, if you can.

I have not been deleting comments and will try to have this resolved ASAP. It fucking figures this happens right when I renew my subscription to this service. Bah.

Another Wise Latina Takes Bench: Immediately Ensures All She's Not Racist, Sexist, or Heterophobic

Congratulations to the Honorable Monica Marquez, the first Latina and openly-gay Supreme Court Justice in Colorado.

From FoxNews:

"[S]he was quick to tell her colleagues that her allegiance is to the law, not any special interest group when she was sworn in Friday 'On the bench, of course, my allegiance is to the law, not to any particular constituency,' she said after she was sworn in by her father, retired Judge Jose D.L. Marquez, who was the first Latino appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals."


Remember how when Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn into the US Supreme Court and he made sure everyone knew that his allegiance was to the law and not to the special constituency of heterosexual white men?

Oh right, that didn't happen.

Straight white guys are naturally objective arbiters of justice and beholden to no "special interest group," certainly not the one they themselves belong to.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yes, And?

It is common for those who oppose same-sex marriage to ground their opposition in a purported belief that all children should be raised by a man and a woman. That is, they disapprove of unions that "intentionally deprive" children of the man-woman gender duo. The basis for this belief, often grounded in the mythical theory of "gender complementary," is that men and women are very different beings who each bring different parenting and spousal characteristics to a relationship and parenting unit.

When pressed for specifics, adherents of this theory are hard-pressed to provide concrete examples as to what, exactly, it is that a man, for instance, gives to his children that no woman could, and vice versa. Other than the circular "men bring their ability to model to boys how to be a man" argument, they usually just make general claims like, "Men tend to be strong, disciplinarian, and [insert other gender stereotype" and "Women tend to be compassionate, nurturing, and [insert other gender stereotype]." Unable to think beyond the gender binary, adherents of this theory often believe that men and women are opposites; their simple either/or thinking blinds them to the reality that incredible varation exists within gender and that what holds true for some women (or men) doesn't hold true for all.

In their Amicus Brief in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, anti-gay organizations Liberty Counsel, Campaign For Children and Families, and Jonah, Inc., this ideology is exemplified. In short, they claimed that "male gender identity and female gender identity are each uniquely important to a child's development." In order to ensure proper development, they concluded, each child needs a mother and a father, something same-sex unions do not provide.

From a legal standpoint, this argument is used to try to support the idea that same-sex marriage bans are not motivated by anti-gay animus, but rather, concern for the development of children. It does not matter to these folks that studies of children of same-sex parents consistently show that such kids do pretty well actually. What matters is strict adherence to that commensense self-evident truth that holds that men and women are very very different.

The brief begins:

"We live in a world demarcated by two genders. There is no third or intermediate category. Sex is binary. A healthy developing boy needs to affirm and embrace his maleness."


Despite the alleged existence of these two discrete genders/sexes, the bulk of this section of the brief is dedicated to boys and men. It's not until several pages in that we learn what the healthy developing girl needs; a typical subtext demontrating that one gender tends to be an afterthought in some circles.

Aside from the male-centrism, the other glaring errors in these few sentences are (a) the conflation of sex and gender and (b) the claim that no intermediate category of sex/gender exists. With respect to gender, by which I mean roles and characteristics of individuals, most humans fall into intermediate categories of what is considered "male" and "female" roles and behaviors. Is there a person among us who exists as a complete and total caricature of masculinity or femininity, however that happens to be defined in a particular society? With respect to sex, by which I mean biology and genetics, it is also a statement of fact that humans exist with chromosomes other than XX or XY and sex characteristics outside of the statistical norm of woman/vagina and man/penis.

Rather than acknowleding this reality, the brief cites as "proof" of its claims about sex and gender, not a scientific journal, but a Christian book about the dangers of the Homosexual Agenda that is authored by the founder of anti-gay group Liberty Counsel.

Nonetheless, sex is binary, the argument goes, therefore sexual expression and gender identity is binary. Gender identity is fixed as two very different and discrete categories: male and female. The brief continues, by undercutting its own argument:

"Without question, some boys have more difficulty embracing their maleness than girls do their femaleness, and this may explain, in part, why male homosexuals far outnumber female lesbians." [Emphasis added]

On this sentence alone, I could write pages. But don't worry, I'll spare you. First, note that qualifier. "Some." It greatly diminishes the claim being made. Indeed, who could argue that the "some" boys have more difficulty embracing the masculine role society has constructed for boys than girls have embracing the feminine role? Without question, indeed. And, playing that game, I would likewise argue that, without question "some" girls have more difficulty embracing the feminine role than boys do embracing the masculine role.

Or, say, without question some Christians really do just hate gay people and write idiotic Amicus briefs to uphold a gender binary that supports heterosexual male dominance.

What? I said "some" not all. Aren't qualifiers fun?

My point here is that this sort of wishy-washy weaselly-worded statement tells us nothing, actually, about the alleged greater preponderance of gay men than lesbians. And qualifiers aside, it was a statistic, mind you, that the authors didn't even feel compelled to share with the Court, instead citing as a reference reparative-therapy advocate Joseph Nicolosi's "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality."

So, right there we know where this brief is heading. Indeed, it continues:

"Homosexuality in boys often stems from gender nonconformity."


Does it "stem from" gender nonconformity, or does it co-exist with it? Unfortunately, this distinction flies over the heads of the brief's authors as they cite a 1981 study that found "'Childhood gender nonconformity turns out to be a very strong predictor of adult sexual preference among.... males.'" Okay, but a predictor is not necessarily a cause. Perhaps, say, gender nonconformity and homosexuality have the same cause?

The brief then spends several pages discussing how boys need to property identify with their fathers in order to not become gay. For instance, sociologist David Popenoe is cited:

"'[F]athers tend to stress competition, challenge, initiative, risk-taking and independence. Mothers in their care-taking roles, in contrast, stress emotional security and personal safety." [Emphasis added].


Notice how a trend (fathers "tend to") has become a fixed and opposing category of what all fathers are like and how that contrasts with what mothers are like- as though no father, ever in the history of ever has cared, or is capable of caring, about emotional security and personal safety and no mother ever in the whole entire world has fostered competition, challenge, initiative, risk-taking and independence.

The brief continues by noting that while improper father-son bonding and modeling doesn't necessarily "doom" a boy to homosexuality, it "may predispose the young boy to homosexuality considerations." And herein lies the real fear about what will happen to children of same-sex couples.

[Oh, afterthought time! Lesbianism. It's finally explained! As a feminist political choice (Hear that, ladeez?! Party in Fannie's Room like it's 1975!), as a result of male abuse, or as a result of being raised by an immature, aloof, or weak mother who taught her daughter that it's sucky to be a woman.]

Anyway, if we remember the original claim being made here, that each child "needs a mother and a father," we can see now that this brief has finally offered us concrete reason as to why. In short, "[s]ame-sex marriage guarantees that a child will be deprived of either the same or opposite [sic] sex parent. Such deprivation is inherently harmful to the child."

What is the resulting harm?

If children, especially boys, are not raised by a parent of each sex, they are likely to be "doomed" to becoming gay.

Remember when Judge Walker struck down Prop 8 because the evidenced demonstrated that it was enacted on the assumption that same-sex couples, and by extension LGB people, are inferior to heterosexual ones and how, responding to that, Chuck Cooper and the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage said that Judge Walker "defames" everyone, yes everyone, who believes in "traditional marriage"? Given the really big question Liberty Counsel's Amicus brief begs, it's interesting that Cooper and NOM didn't properly qualify that statement.


It's all good though. Creepy Cat In A Box judges all who judge others for being homo parents who rear homo and "gender nonconforming" kids:

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

1 Down

6,999,999 to go.

Elite "Marriage Defenders" who have built careers out of getting Americans to feel good about opposing same-sex marriage have claimed that it "defames" those who believe in "traditional marriage" to suggest that they, and the 7 million voters who upheld Prop 8, have anything less than benign motives for doing so.

It's not so much that American "marriage defenders" think same-sex couples or gay people are inferior to heterosexuals, they claim, it's just that they think every marriage should contain a man and a woman.

Well, oopsies.

NOM and company should check in with their ground troops more often. 'Cuz the word on the street is that, well, actually homos suck.

The following is an exchange I had with a "marriage defender" who is a member of the "grassroots" Digital Network Army (Ker-pow!). Ze (I know not this blogger's gender) had written a post entitled "The Slippery Slop[e] of SSM: Promoting Sodomy in Public Schools," which included a logically and factually-iffy statement from Brian Camenker of SPLC-identified hate group Mass Resistance.

In the comments, I wrote the following:

"Your link between same-sex marriage and 'the promotion of sodomy in public schools' is poor. And by 'poor' I mean non-existent."


To which the blogger responded:

"If the state recognizes SSM, it must tacitly acknowledge that 'Heather's two mommies,' if lesbians, are probably engaging in homosexual behavior; thus, the greater opportunity for homosexual activists to promote their lifestyle, validated by their 'marriage,' in the public forum. After all, ssm is now just one of many 'equally' acceptable lifestyle choices now.

Thanks for reading the blog."


No, really. Thank you.

An hour later, the blogger felt compelled to add:

"And, from my friend, Euripides [a fellow "marriage defense" blogger], this gem:

'There's only one thing important to those beholden to leftist doctrine, that the doctrine must be propagated at all costs. Such doctrine steps all over the rule of law and, instead, becomes a law unto itself, beyond reproach.'

The radical homosexual agenda certainly qualifies as 'leftist.'"


Now, before we get to my response to these "gems," let's take note of this blogger's comment policy, which is located above the comment box of hir blog:

"Comments are about dialogue. Dialogue demands diplomacy. So please, be kind. You can publish insults on your own blog. Thanks!"


Now, given that this blogger explains to us that "comments are about dialogue," I imagined that this blogger would be open to dialogue, at least as long as the exchange was sufficiently kind. Of course, I later noticed that the last approved comment at this particular blog was dated a month and a half before mine, which I should have taken as a big clue that this blogger might not know conversatin' if it crawled out of hir bible belt, pulled out a megaphone, and yelled "OOGEDY BOOGEDY" at the top of its figurative lungs.

Nonetheless, my experience with "marriage defenders" being what it is, I knew that no matter my actual level of kindness, it would be extremely unlikely that I, someone complicit in a villainous "radical homosexual agenda," would ever be capable of being perceived by this blogger with anything other than deep suspicion. Admission that you're a real live LGB or- goddess forbid- transgender person, can induce some folks to run cowering into the corner clutching their pearls as though it's primarily LGBT people who are on the dishing-it-out end of violence and harassment, rather than the receiving end of it.

So, before posting my reponse, I saved it, predicting a complete lack of interest on this blogger's part of engaging with a practitioner of one of hir fave topics of monologue- a radical homosexualist. Anyway, I wrote:

"I'm glad we agree that my lesbian 'lifestyle' is equally as acceptable as your presumably heterosexual 'lifestyle.' It would seem unkind of you to suggest otherwise.

Or, maybe you were using sarcasm to indicate that you actually believe my relationship with my partner is inferior, dangerous, worthy of condemnation, and/or immoral? If so, would you say your opinion is a common one amongst those who support bans on the legal recognition of same-sex marriage?

The vagueness and non-specificity of Euripedes' comment may be convincing to those who believe 'radical homosexual agenda' is something sinister, but it is entirely unconvincing to everyone else, including me."


(I may have made minor editing changes to the exact wording when I posted it in the comment box, but I promise it contained no insults, threats, or personal attacks.)

In addition to wanting to convey my opinion that this blogger's opinion was unkind, I was fishing for an explicit admission that this person's rhetoric and beliefs go far beyond that Nice Guy "I just want kids to have a mom and dad, it's not that I think gays or gay couples are inferior" civil posturing that NOM and company claim defines the "marriage defense" movement.

I wasn't disappointed.

Although the blogger didn't let my comment be visible on hir blog, ze did post a rather lengthy reply to it within the comment section. Other amateur "marriage defense" bloggers I've encountered also engage in this dishonest power trip which makes it appear as though a "radical homosexual activist" has left a comment laden with profanity, threats, and personal attacks. It fits into their larger narrative where LGBT advocates are violent villains, and the lezzzzbians look something like this:

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Anyway, I won't post this blogger's long response, but if ze doesn't delete it, you can read it here. The gist of it is that it's just Objectively True that, unlike heterosexual relations within a marriage, homosexuality is "morally wrong, physically risky, and societally unhealthy."

Of course, that opinion about our inferiority and depravity comes as no surprise to anyone who actually pays attention to the marriage debate. I note it only to expose the utter mendaciousness of NOM and company's claim that bans on same-sex marriage have nothing at all to do with people's moral disapproval of homosexuality or "radical homosexuals." This moral disapproval is so common, in fact, that in so-called polite Christian company, it passes for civility, love, and kindness. And yet, it's not they who are unkind, it's us, for daring to suggest that they might be acting unkindly.

Indeed, the blogger ended by wishing me, a dangerous radical homosexualist, well:

I wish you a Merry Christmas, and heartily defend your right to your own opinions, expressed on your own blog. I wish you all possible happiness and good will.


In other words, despite what hir comment policy claims, this particular "marriage defense" blogger is not, actually, open to dialogue. My opinions, indeed my very presence, on hir blog is too offensive. My immorality is simply not up for debate, at least on hir blog or in hir mind, and really when it comes down to it, in hir schools or society as well.

See, "marriage defenders" who advocate against my equality on the bases that my "lifestyle" is inferior to theirs and that I am a threat to society have that privilege to walk away from dialogue and move on with their lives with empty wishes of "happiness and good will" as though their resistance and bigotry is not a contributing factor to my enduring inequality. It's this entirely schizophrenic message of, "Oh ho ho, you're immoral and dangerous and sucky. Welp, Merry Christmas, love ya!"

Dialogue, for many of these people, has ceased to mean an exchange of opinions. It means that their unkind opinions get to form the basis for law in our shared country and we can't touch those opinions without violating their "religious freedoms" and their "right" not to be reminded of their unkindness.

It is not civility that defines the "marriage defense" movement, but rather, that audacity.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inconvenient Omissions

Today's Perry v. Schwarzenegger Amicus fun was brought to you by a group of Catholic, Mormon, Evangelical Christian, and other Protestant organizations opposed to same-sex marriage.

One of the central arguments presented is a reaction to what they believed was the implication of Judge Walker, who struck down Prop 8 at the federal trial level, that the religious motivations behind the same-sex marriage ban were "sinister and novel." Namely, they conclude,"religious beliefs have informed American public policy in the past, and they rightly do so today."

Okay, fair enough, at least on the novelity argument. It is not historically atypical for political arguments to be grounded in religious opinion.

The brief misses the mark on the "sinister" claim though, arguing, incredibly, that the religious motivation against same-sex marriage "fits within a pattern established over centuries" wherein religious groups were on the right side of "the most significant movements in American history" such as slavery, women's suffrage, and the civil rights movement.

Yes, religion did help inform these movements. Both sides of these movements. Oddly, the brief whitewashes religion's complicity in the wrong side of these movements.

For instance, the brief's short section on slavery includes quotations by George Mason denouncing slavery because it would "'bring the judgment of Heaven." (Because if Yahweh didn't judge slavery as wrong, it wouldn't be wrong?). It also includes statements by Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln citing religious references "that inspired and sustained the terrible fight to end slavery."

Now, if we had only this brief to inform our understanding of history, we would walk away not knowing that Christians also used the Bible and their religious beliefs to assert that slavery was the natural condition of some human beings. For instance, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, was another Christian man who used his religion to "inform" his opinion on slavery, opining "Slavery was established by decree of Almighty God... it is sanctioned in the Bible."

Oh yes, the authors of this Prop 8 brief are certainly correct that hearing from religious folks is hardly "novel" with respect to significant issues of the day.

The brief continues with a section comprised of three whole sentences on women's suffrage. Apparently, the two quotations provided demonstrate that "suffragists turned to religious language and belief to advocate their cause."

Not surprisingly, the brief's authors left out all of the more sinister religious justifications used to deny women the right to vote, and for good reason. For, it is religion's historic complicity and leadership in women's oppression that makes this Prop 8 brief the most weak in comparing anti-gay Christians to those who were on the right side of historical human rights issues.

You wouldn't know it by reading the brief, but many Christians opposed to women's suffrage used their religious beliefs to "inform" their opinion on ladies and voting. Citing Biblical references such as Collosians' command, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord," opponents of voting equality often argued that men and women had inherently different natures and, thus, different roles in society, family, politics, and life. Women, imbue with certain god-given differences from men, were seen as not suited for voting.

Perhaps the authors of this religious brief should have checked with their friends at Liberty Counsel before submitting this Amicus, because, as we saw yesterday, it is similar religiously-based and sexist theories of gender complementarism that are behind much of the resistance to same-sex marriage.

In other words, Analogy Fail.

To end, religious people are entitled to their beliefs and I would agree that religion has sometimes been a force for positive change. Yet to overlook religion's historical role in informing the wrong side of social issues as well is a gross historical revisionism.

When religious beliefs are grounded in false gender essentialism, anti-intellectualism, and strict interpretation of mythical books, history shows that opinions "motivated by faith" have only justified inequality, rather than transcended it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Civil Union Me

[Cross-posted at Our Big Gayborhood]

Many Americans have the privilege of the same-sex marriage debate being an abstraction, a pedantic debating exercise, that does not affect their lives in a concrete way. Oftentimes, as I talk about gender roles, patriarchy, and heterocentrism with respect to marriage, I even let myself forget that this issue is, for me, more than some sort of academic dialogue. It's personal.

Maybe it's a defense mechanism, but I don't often let myself imagine how my life would be different if anti-gay laws were not on the books. My partner and I have worked around legal inequalities when we've been able to, such as by drafting advance directives, and have accepted the ones we have not been able to control, such as our inability to file taxes jointly.

Last Wednesday, I was surprised to find myself in tears as I learned that my home state, Illinois, had passed a civil unions bill. Tangibly, this will affect same-sex couples in very real ways.

For the first time, I seriously considered formalizing my relationship with my partner, as it would be more than a symbolic union, one that had legal consequences as well. Indeed, when hearing of this news during the day, we simultaneously IM'ed each other:

Her: Civil unions passed!
Me: Want to get civil union'ed? LOL.
Her: How romantic.


Further, the passage of this law means that both the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage and the Catholic Church, two institutions that that campaigned to get lawmakers to oppose the bill, lost. That's always fun.

Of course, the Defense of Marriage Act still prohibits the federal government from granting any rights, privileges, or benefits upon same-sex couples. Yet, for now, I am happy with the civil union baby step. In Illinois, same-sex couples will at least receive benefits that heterosexual married couples receive from the state of Illinois.

Until this bill passed, I didn't realize how accustomed to legal inequality I have become, even though I blog about inequality every single day. Even though this bill is not perfect, it has reminded that, oh yeah, American institutions and processes are for me too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things That Render "Feminist" a Meaningless Label

TW: Sexual Assault

Speaking of Wikileaks spokesman Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations, his attorney Per E. Samuelson, a rape-defense specialist, laments:

"To be accused of a sex crime in Sweden is considered very serious. Swedish courts tend to believe what the woman says."


I think he thinks that's a bad thing.

The article continues:

"The Swedish government recently ordered an investigation into the possibility of tightening rape laws even more, Samuelson said. What may be considered is a new law making clear a man has to have the approval and permission from a woman before he has sex with her."


I think he thinks this, too, is a bad thing.

A bit later, he laments that "90 percent of rape cases he's seen result in convictions."

Although many defense attorneys wouldn't highlight such a statistic, you guessed it, that number is also supposed to be a bad thing.

One is led to wonder if that statistic would be framed as so very lamentable if the crime in question was, say, homicide. Unlike rape, which is largely seen as a crime against women committed by men, homicide is a crime that does not have gender overtones. It's prosecution or defense is not implicated in the "gender wars." It's victims, rather than being seen as mostly women, are seen as humans.

Because of the easily-ascertainable humanity of homicide victims, as oppose to rape victims who are seen by many as fulfilling their god-given role as members of the sex class, many would likely applaud a prosecutor who could boast of a 90% conviction rate.

Instead, we get an article where we are to sympathize with a man accused of rape who might face, to borrow from the headline, a "'tough climate' in feminist-friendly Sweden." I guess the US journalist who wrote this article prefers our anti-feminist climate of dealing with rape? For, after presenting quote after quote of the rape defense attorney, the journalist frames the accusers' alleged victims' attorney as a man who associates with "the more militant feminist Swedish politicians" and then spends multiple paragraphs discussing how people he may or may not agree with or be close to basically hate men. I guess he's guilty by association.

But don't worry ladies, defense attorney Samuelson isn't anti-feminist. In fact, he claims:

"I consider myself a feminist too."


Totes.

Because high up on the Feminist Agenda is prioritizing the notion that, for legal purposes, women should be assumed to exist in a state of perpetual consent to sex with men.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Abortion Debate FAIL

The cocky cluelessness of anti-feminist dudes is often downright hilarious. Here, anti-feminist, anti-abortion blogger "Wintery Knight" opines upon what "the early church fathers [thought] about abortion" and concludes that they were "pro-life."

Fun fact, folks:

100% of the early church fathers were not born with uteri.
100% of the people having abortions were.

Suffice it to say that the deference I grant to the early patriarchs' opinion on abortion is directly proportional to their representation among the ranks of potentially-pregnant humans.

Moving on, let's skip ahead to Wintery Knight's own silly take on the abortion issue. Not because I particularly care what he thinks about it either, but because it's so damn amusing:

"Really, abortion is just selfishness taken to the nth degree – you create another human being by recreational sex (fun) and then you kill them in order to avoid have [sic] to take responsibility for that new life. It’s like going out and getting drunk then getting behind the wheel of a car and killing someone with the car."

Sure.

If, instead of being two separate entities, drivers and their cars were combined in a sort of Herbie-the-Love-Bug scenario, and the person hit by the car was also in some way dependent upon the car-person for hir very survival, then yeah, the analogy would totally work.

Otherwise, not so much.


In other news, isn't this cat the cutest:

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I stared at this animation for 2 full minutes and, even though I don't know this cat, I can't decide if I want to eat it or put it in the pocket of my hoodie and carry it with me everywhere I go.

Dogs 3, Cats 7.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Prop 8 Oral Arguments Heard

On Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (aka, The Prop 8 Case).

I haven't have a chance to watch the arguments yet, which were televised this time, but I did peruse the anti-gay Amicus Briefs that were filed. Mostly, it's more of the same shit, different day. Which, naturally, means that when taken together, the anti-gay arguments can be somewhat entertaining (the following referenced briefs can be found at the link above):

Margie Reilly, a private citizen, told the Court that she loves her "Non-Breeder brothers and sisters in society," she just thinks granting them marriage rights would "destroy the deepest substratum of the social structure." I guess I missed the to-do item on the Homosexual Agenda where I was supposed to get a hysterectomy, because last I checked, I am still capable of breeding.

Anyway, despite this gay ability to destroy substratums and so forth, Paul McHugh, a psychiatrist known for being anti-trans, told the court that homosexuality is so amorphous that gays don't actually exist as a class.

But then, on the other hand, Concerned Women for America chimed in to tell the Court that, well actually, gays have incredible political power and so discriminatory laws against them are okay.

Despite this Incredible Power Of The Gay, the American Civil Rights Union then informed the Court that gazillions of states, courts, and voting citizens have been reluctant to view same-sex marriage as a fundamental right or to grant equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Okay, I think I get it. Homosexuality is so amorphous a characteristic that anti-gay laws don't actually discriminate against anyone, but it's also so substantive a characteristic that it's composed of people who are Very Powerful and Influential who aren't influential or powerful enough to influence majorities that they deserve equal rights?

Glad that's all settled.

The Catholics for the Common Good also explained that "marriage is a preexisting reality, not a societal construct," an opinion that makes it interesting that this organization felt the need to involve itself in court at all then. If marriage exists in nature like, say, a flower or a tree, then no court opinion, human definition, or proposition can change that, right?

I mean, with respect to that oft-used "marriage is a preexisting reality" argument, isn't the big question how do we recognize a marriage when we see it if it's not marked by a license or a ceremony? Is a "natural" marriage a man and a woman who live together and have sex? Do they have to have had children? What if a person has children with more than one partner- is that person "naturally" married to more than one person? Given that this Catholic group made a statement claiming that marriage is an objective thing in reality that isn't a social construct, do they have special equipment that can detect the presence of marriage in the absence of any of the social markers humans have used to indicate marriage? Inquiring minds want to know.

More to the point, I guess they missed the memo stating that the issue is not "What do some Christians think marriage is?" but "Does a ban on legal same-sex marriage violate the US Constitution?"

Anyway, I know many of these anti-gay arguments are silly, especially when taken together, but there are a couple of briefs I would like to address more seriously, especially from a feminist perspective, in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Race Lessons From a White Conservative Professor

[TW: Racism]

Conservative commentator and professor of political science Mike Adams is whinging about criticism aimed at him again.

What started this round was a column he wrote saying that if he were president of University of North Carolina, he would abolish the African American Center (and the LGBT Center, and the Women's Center, and well, you get the point). He then wrote another column after having an interaction with a black female graduate who was upset by his remarks, using the trusty standby "These days, college graduates are not well-versed in satire" because, AHAHAHA, he was just kidding!

That particular canard is a favorite of mine. The "humorist" blames his audience for being too dim to recognize satire, rather than blaming his own failed, incompetent, and offensive attempt at the genre. For instance, his HILARIOUS justification for "satirically" saying he'd shut down the LGBT Center? Because we need to stop "encouraging unhealthy behavior." Because, oh, oh wait! I get it! Gays get AIDS!! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Yep, that rhetorical device comes from the same mastermind who brought us the one about all the persecuted Christians who committed suicide because gays were bullying them, only to tell us that, oh wait, those suicide didn't actually happen HAHAHAHAHAHA JUST KIDDING!!

And here, let's note that when you, the reader, express your lack of enthusiasm for said sucky "satire," the "satirist" will allude Jonathan Swift, as though the offensive "satire" attempt even remotely comes close to Swiftian levels satirical skill and you are just too stupid to get it. Adams doesn't let us down, explaining:

"As an art form, [satire] is swiftly becoming extinct."


Oooh, did you catch that allusion?

Literary genius right there.

Moving on to his substantive argument, Adams begins his attempted smackdown thusly:

"Many African American Cultural Centers actually impede diversity by turning black students into racists and segregationists. And most of them make black students less tolerant by convincing them that they are somehow more enlightened and have special 'perspective' simply because of their race.'"


So, you know right away how the whole article is going to go down.

Aside from the fact that our entire society is seeped in the oh-so-special perspective of the heterosexual white dude, I've actually found that it's often such men who think they have the unique gift of Just Telling It Like It Is, perched as they are on their purported thrones of complete and total objectivity, deeming everybody else's perspective to be "special" or biased and themselves grand victims of having to live in a society where everyone gets to have their own special groups except for them.

Here, Adams does something a little different. He Tells It Like It Is, oh yes he certainly does, but he also claims it was these special groups and centers, rather than the experience of living in a racist society, that has indoctrinated blacks into believing they have a unique perspective and, furthermore, that this perspective has made blacks racist against whites. It's as though, in Adams' parallel universe, these "special" groups have sprung forth from the aether into a society that had no pre-existing race, gender, or sexual orientation issues or problems whatsoever.

Indeed, these special groups are probably the cause of all such problems, burdening the honest straight white man with accusations and feelings of guilt. In fact, Adams feels compelled to share with us an extra special glimpse into his familial pedigree:

"Things went downhill in our conversation when this college graduate told me that she became upset with my remarks about getting rid of the African American Center after she 'saw that I was white'. My seventh Great Grandfather fought in the American Revolution in order to preserve our basic God-given rights. But this college graduate seemed to suggest that the expression of basic human rights is contingent upon race."


Adams doesn't mention whether the black female college graduate said what her "seventh Great Grandfather" was doing during the Revolution, but it's hardly a tangential detail. For, isn't it interesting that Adams says his grandfather fought to preserve "our" rights? With all due respect to his grandfather, it's almost as though Adams has forgotten that after "we" won that particular war, "the expression of basic human rights" certainly was contingent upon race (and gender).

Adams then discusses how the media came to his school in response to this incident and how a local TV station ran a poll about the incident, which he boasts of having "won by a ration of eight-to-one." I give him some props for at least linking to the poll so readers could read the question themselves, but it bears mentioning that he dishonestly implies that poll respondents agreed with the content of his speech when in reality respondents were merely agreeing that his university should support his statements as "free speech." He writes:

"That [eight-to-one ratio] is significant because my percentage of support greatly outnumbers the local and national white population. Yet this young diversity expert [interviewed by the TV station] will probably never acknowledge that his own views are seen by most as 'incredible, to say the least' and 'inappropriate' at an institution of higher learning."


There is an important distinction between agreeing with the content of someone's message and agreeing that they have the right to say it, yet Adams muddles the two by suggesting that the poll respondents see the diversity expert's substantive views as "incredible" and "inappropriate." Not that that detail stops him from doing a little touchdown dance as though he won a substantive debate between himself and the diversity expert.

He ends by taking note of the college graduate's sorority jacket. Or, as Adams puts it, she was "touting her membership in an organization that limits its membership to blacks and women. The hypocrisy of asking the public to fund 'solutions' to the 'problems' she is exacerbating is simply staggering."

So, despite his previous claim that he was Just Being Satirical about wanting to abolish the African American Center, he does indicate that he does actually have a really big issue with such clubs because he sees them as "exacerbating" racism and sexism. And here, I'd like to note how cowardly the "I was just kidding" position ultimately is. Mike Adams seems to want it both ways. On the one hand, he seems to sincerely argue that African American centers are wrong but then, when he takes heat for that position, he backs up with his hands in the air saying that it's too bad the kids these days don't get his awesome satire. So, just to be clear, he seems to think African American groups are sucky and racist, but he wouldn't actually ban them from his university. Or something.

For such a fierce advocate of free speech, he seems reluctant to fully stand behind his own words and positions. And before that Christian Persecution Complex fully kicks into high histrionic gear, I don't support censoring Mike Adams, not that I believe criticism is censorship. Indeed, I think speech like his reveals the depths of insecurity among dominant classes that is alwaus revealed whenever minorities have the audacity to claim their own space and refuse to let dominant groups set their agenda. I think Adam's speech further reveals the ignorance that results when the white hetero male experience in life is centered. For, at no point does Adams reveal an interest in understanding why such "special" groups might have been created or might exist, instead viewing it only from a limited, myopic perspective of What About How The White/Straight/Male People Feel About These Groups?!

I also think it's important to watch how the messaging in Adams' article gives cover to those who are more overtly racist within his comment section. For instance, one commenter opines:

"You are saying it's not my fault when a 'poor' black kid (who probably earns as much or more than my rural white red neck *ss) robs somebody else? Who would have thunk. When my forefathers were busy getting killed at Gettysburg, Antietam et al guess they never had a dream (pun intended) than their offspring would be held hostage for ransome(reparations) in a couple of hundred yrs."


Riffing off Adams' "seventh Great Grandfather" story, this commenter erases the fact that while his "forefathers were busy getting killed," black people were busy being slaves or being excluded from the military. The commenter then compares reparations to a violent hostage situation, as though reparations are being requested For No Reason At All.

Another one adds:

"If they want to ensure diversity, build the Black Student Center midway between KFC and Popeye's ;)."


Notice the little smiley at the end, which totally erases anything offensive that might have preceded it. When another commenter replies that the above comment is "tacky" (but oddly, not racist), the original commenter clarifies, taking a cue from Mike Adams' genius comedic talent, that it was just "sarcasm" (but oddly, not racist). Another commenter continues the "satire" party:

"Jes keeps giben me dat 'free' guvment cheese & doan be axten me no hard questions!!"


Keep up the race lessons, Professor Adams. You're doing a swell job of teaching your students in the townhall.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Civil Unions Pass In Illinois

My home state of Illinois passed a civil unions bill last week!

I have written about previous attempts to enact civil union/marriage equality laws in Illinois here and here. As I discussed earlier, Illinois' "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,"contains a (unnecessary and redundant) provision telling religious groups they don't have to solemnize civil unions if they don't want to:

"Nothing in this Act shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body. Any religious body, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group is free to choose whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil union."


While the intent of this language seems to be to make sure religious groups know they don't have to perform same-sex ceremonies, I fear that the first sentence is incredibly broad and could potentially allow religious institutions to discriminate against same-sex couples with respect to employment benefits, hiring, and termination. We'll see.

Practically, the bill, which applies to both same-sex and different-sex partners, entitles civilly unioned partners to:

"the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law."


The bill also provides that civil unions and marriages between same-sex couples that are legally recognized in other states will be recognized in Illinois.

I'm grateful that the state rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage will now be available to same-sex couples, but of course, a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act would be an even more significant step in the right direction as that would enable same-sex couples to receive federal benefits as well.

And, of course, there's the whole "separate but equal" issue, which this video highlights well. The take-away line: "Civil unions: Not good enough for you. Not good enough for your gay cousin."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Odds 'N Ends

1. Via Geek Feminism, venture capitalist John Doerr admits that when it comes to which startup companies he chooses to invest in, he looks for those headed by "white, male, nerds" who've dropped out of pretiguous universities, because in his mind, there's a pattern of such companies being successful. Yet, as Restructure! notes:

"Statistics show that women-led high-tech startups have lower failure rates than those led by men, and that venture-backed companies run by a woman had higher annual revenues than the norm but used less committed capital. However, counterintuitive, abstract statistics are less convincing than intuitive, concrete anecdotes for white men who believe in the unique cleverness and hard-working character of white men."



2. As someone who grew up reading every single Stephen King novel in existence, including the ones written by "Richard Bachman," I appreciate Zack's criticism of King's sucky use of The Evil Lesbian trope in his latest collection of short stories.


3. Maggie Gallagher, who is affiliated with the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (which the Southern Poverty Law Center recently profiled for its anti-gay activities), has been named the director for the newly-opened Center for Research on Marriage, Religion, and Public Policy at Roman Catholic, and fourth-tier, Ave Maria School of Law.

Gallagher does not have a law degree and, although her NOM biography puts her as an '82 Yale graduate, it is not clear what field of study her degree is in or if she possesses graduate training. Nonetheless, in the above-cited interview, Gallagher claims to have a "background awareness of the empirical research available" with respect to issues like gay teen suicide and she claims that "[c]ross-disciplinary conversations about the nature of marriage and family and the contributions of religion and public policy are really needed today."

Because a big problem with the culture wars is that the "religious perspective" just isn't taken into consideration enough? I mean, it's not like organized religion has ever contributed to political propositions concerning "the nature of marriage and family." Oh wait.


4. Happy 10th Anniversary to the infamous Bush v. Gore decision, where 5 Supreme Court Justices halted the 2000 election, putting George W. Bush in the White House!

Writing in The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin aptly notes that unlike other momentous Supreme Court decisions, the "Justices have provided a verdict of sorts on Bush v. Gore by the number of times they have cited it: zero."

Opponents of Judicial Activism were resoundingly silent in marking this anniversary, which parallels the oddity of which Justices took it upon themselves to be so active in this particular case:

"What made the decision in Bush v. Gore so startling was that it was the work of Justices who were considered, to greater or lesser extents, judicial conservatives. On many occasions, these Justices had said that they believed in the preĆ«minence of states’ rights, in a narrow conception of the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and, above all, in judicial restraint. Bush v. Gore violated those principles."


Speaking of Maggie Gallagher, the next time a "marriage defender" tells you that she is so very concerned about courts respecting voter-passed anti-gay initiatives that result from a "free and fair election," ask her what her thoughts are regarding the Bush v. Gore decision.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Scarborough's Model of Civility

Previously, we've learned from at least one anti-feminist that it's not okay for female politicians to tell male politicians to "man up." The rules may be different, though, when men tell other men to "man up," especially when the manning-up is to be done in opposition to women.

Recently, conservative commentator Joe Scarborough ordered the Republican Party to "man up" to Sarah Palin, expressing his anxiety about the "reality star" who could "devastate" the GOP in 2012.

Yes, there is a certain sense of schadenfreude whenever conservatives bicker amongst themselves, but inevitably, my feminist sense of no-funnington eventually kicks in to spoil the fun. See, when conservatives bicker amongst themselves, it's often gays or women, or blacks, or immigrants, some other non-white-dude group that loses.

Let's see, for instance, what Scarborough's real angst about Palin's shenanigans is about.

Although he briefly, and aptly, mentions Palin's "thin" resume, his primary beef with her is that she dared ridicule some Great Republican Patriarchs. (I guess her ridicule of liberal and progressive men and women was totally fine). Scarborough writes:

"Adding audacity to [her] dopey dream [of becoming President] is that Palin can’t stop herself from taking swings at Republican giants. In the past month alone, she has mocked Ronald Reagan’s credentials, dismissed George H.W. and Barbara Bush as arrogant 'blue bloods' and blamed George W. Bush for wrecking the economy....

One can only guess what comes next on Palin’s bizarre road show. Maybe the publishing world’s favorite reality star can keep drawing attention and selling billions of books by spitting on John Wayne’s grave or 'manning up' by shooting an American bald eagle."


Putting aside the inconvenient fact that George W did wreck the economy, actually, Scarborough might as well have added that Palin propose cutting down the Washington Monument too given that she's so clearly offended every other swaggering symbol of conservative American machismo. Note that it wasn't Palin's gaffes and misstatements that crossed Scarborough's line, it was her mocking of Republican men. Oh yes, it's clear that Palin's Big Sin isn't that she's incompetent, but that she's Just A Silly Woman who dares to treat VIP men like how women and femininity are treated all the damn time.

Scarborough continues, noting George HW Bush's distinguished and decorated military career and comparing it Palin's non-military endeavors:

"I suppose Palin’s harsh dismissal of this great man is more understandable after one reads her biography and realizes that, like Bush, she accomplished a great deal in her early 20s. Who wouldn’t agree that finishing third in the Miss Alaska beauty contest is every bit as treacherous as risking your life in military combat? Maybe the beauty contestant who would one day be a reality star and former governor didn’t win the Distinguished Flying Cross, but the half-termer was selected as Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants."


I should probably preface this by noting that I don't think Bush I's military service should be demeaned. And if this is a who-gave-more-to-their-country dick-measuring contest, Bush would clearly win, although I'm also not sure military service in and of itself, just like beauty pageantry, is indicative of whether someone's going to make a stellar, competent politician.

Unfortunately, what's clear from reading Scarborough's piece is that he thinks it's not manly men who serve in the manly military who should be denigrated, but rather, feminine women who do girly girl things like beauty pageants who should be. Indeed, by specificaly contrasting Palin's stereotypically feminine experience with Bush's sterotypically masculine one, he pits femininity against masculinity and judges one the clear and obvious winner.

It's such a classic ploy of patriarchy. You ingrain in women that it's extremely important that men find them attractive, and then when they are, you use their beauty compliance as the primary reason why they are unqualified to do Serious Things.

Scarborough continues:

"I work hard every day to assume the best of Americans who engage in public service. But I am offended by Palin’s attempt to build herself up by tearing down great men like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush."


It's too bad Scarborough doesn't share a similar concern about men who build other men up by tearing down women and femininity.

Indeed, partly because of the grave offense he has taken at Palin's slams of the Republic Patriarchs, Scarborough has launched a group "dedicated to restoring civility in politics." And here we see two more observations that are just so typical of patriarchy. First, when a woman does something-like say wins an award for Miss Congeniality-it is to be ridiculed; when a man does it- like say, narcissistically brands himself Mr. Congeniality- it is suddenly Very Important Business. And two, men who denigrate women and femininity are civil, but women who denigrate men and masculinity are rude and out of line.

I suppose we've also learned yet again that when feminists are seen as denigrating femininity and stay-at-home moms and beauty pageants, they're out of line. When men do it, they're just stating Universal Truths about the different roles of men and women in society.

We get the message loud and clear, fellas. Men are entitled to aggression; women must apologize for it.

Sarah Palin has reignited a "feminist" movement that some of us cynically view as a movement that aligned with patriarchy's priority of maintaining male supremacy. It is cheap and easy, after all, for conservative women to co-opt the feminist label to support conservative ideologies that align with their own already-held beliefs on issues such as abortion and gay rights. Where these women show their true mettle and integrity to feminism is in their responses to sexist, misogynistic statements uttered by conservative men.

Will they challenge patriarchy? Or, will they leave the criticism of "their men" to progressive feminists so they can remain the patriarchy's good girls? (And yes, I also believe progressive feminists show their own integrity to feminism when they oppose the sexist denigration of women like Palin).

If readers have come across any instances of conservative feminists criticizing Scarborough's article, please link in the comments. I have yet to find any.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Women's Sports and the Lavendar Menace

I was pleased to read this well-done article by Graham Hays at ESPN, of all places, openly discussing the problem of pervasive homophobia in women's sports. The article centers around Olympic and pro softball player Lauren Lappin, who came out before participating in the 2008 Olympics.

Because of the stereotype about the ubiquity of lesbains in athletics, some might assume that lesbians and bisexual women are accepted within the world of women's collegiate and professional sports, and in college softball in particular. Unfortunately, many heterosexual athletic administrators and coaches don't appreciate this Lavendar Menace of women's sports, those women who give all female athletes and coaches a bad name. Thus, as Hays notes:

"As a result, softball can itself paradoxically become a breeding ground of intolerance among those on the inside seeking to assert a place within the supposed normalcy of heterosexuality."


Indeed, during my long athletic career, some of the most homophobic environments I have been in were girls' and women's sports' teams, teams where members enforced compulsory heterosexuality on each other and virulently ridiculed anyone suspected of being gay while coaches looked the other way. It is a homophobia grounded in the insecurity that develops when the larger misogynistic society uses homophobia to denigrate female athletes, but it is a hurtful homophobia nonetheless.

For instance, Hays writes of elite college sports' programs with "de facto bans on gay players," of homophobic recruiting pitches to parents' and athletes that are centered around a rival school's "gay-friendly culture," and players benched or kicked off a team if they come out. Yes, lesbian athletes have been writing about this problem for years, but kudos to a male ESPN writer taking on this subject. Maybe now it will start to be addressed more seriously?

The bottom line is that a player or coach's sexual orientation should be a non-issue in sports but as much as many lesbian and bisexual women would like it to be a non-issue, they often have to endure homophobic witch hunts and go to absurd degrees to hide details of their private lives that heterosexuals can freely flaunt with no fear of retribution.

Which is why I find it incredibly unfortunate that, via AfterEllen, girls' basketball programs like this exist where, in addition to teaching basketball skills, this "Christian" basketball programs "encourag[es] young girls to be proud and secure in not being part of the lesbian and homosexual lifestyle which is so prevalent in woman's/girl's athletics."

Why I find this message so reprehensible is that this message of hetero pride assumes that acceptance of homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality the deviant, othered status, a reversal that turns the reality of pervasive homophobia and persecution within female athletics on its head. Any narrative positing that it's heterosexual girls who need to learn pride and security in their orientations implies that it is not lesbian and bisexual girls who are persecuted, but heterosexuals. For instance, citing no evidence or even anecdata, coach Jaye Collins opines:

"Many girls, as early as middle school, are being influenced or 'tested', or converted and convinced that if they play sports, specifically basketball, they must be, should be, or need to be gay."


The reality, of course, is that most girls, as early as pre-school, are influenced and convinced that in order to be a real, normal woman they must be, should be, or need to be heterosexual, especially if they play sports.

That anti-gay Christians, a group of people who share a changeable trait and who see it as part of their religious duty to recruit others into their lifestyle, consistently charge that it is gays who possess these traits is always a fun reversal as well.