Monday, February 28, 2011

But... Girls?.... Playing Baseball?

Justine Siegel has become the first woman to pitch batting practice in a Major League Baseball spring training camp. Siegel, 36, has coached baseball at both the professional and collegiate level. Although it is common for men to coach women's sports teams, it is still rare for women to coach men's teams.

One quote from the SI article stood out, which perhaps underscores this gender-disparity in coaching:

"'If you didn't see the ponytails, she would have fit right in,' said catcher Paul Phillips, one of the players who took swings off Siegal's pitches. 'She did great.'"

Perhaps what he means is, if she wasn't a lady, she might have had more opportunities as a player and a coach, you know, since she would otherwise "have fit right in" and all if we were just looking at her ability.

In 1931, Kenneshaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of organized baseball declared women unfit to play baseball, as the sport was "too strenuous" (and the MLB officially banned women from signing contracts in 1952). This announcement came the day after a 17-year-old girl named Jackie Mitchell, who played on a minor league team, struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game.

Prior to this game, one media outlet opined:

"'The Yankees will meet a club here that has a girl pitcher named Jackie Mitchell, who has a swell change of pace and swings a mean lipstick. I suppose that in the next town the Yankees enter they will find a squad that has a female impersonator in left field, a sword swallower at short, and a trained seal behind the plate. Times in the South are not only tough but silly.' Source: The New York Daily News (April 2, 1931)"

I love it. In 1931, it was such a commonsensical self-evident truth that men and were So Very Different that of course a woman playing baseball would portend America's pastime turning into a three-ring circus. I guess it's progress that these differences have been reduced to ponytails?

[Tip of the beret: Nooz]

Friday, February 25, 2011

On DOMA and Review

As you might have heard, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that denies same-sex couples all of the federal benefits, rights, and privileges of marriage, even if they're legally married in, say, Iowa.

This announcement comes in the context of two Second Circuit lawsuits challenging the law. According to Attorney General Eric Holder:

"After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit....

The Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense. At the same time, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because – as here – the Department does not consider every such argument to be a 'reasonable' one. Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute in cases, like this one, where the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional."

Broadly, what this means is that DOMA is still in effect, and will be in effect until Congress repeals it or the US Supreme Court finds it unconstitutional. But... well, to understand the implications of this announcement, perhaps I can offer a brief summary of the constitutional issues at play here (which Holder also alludes to in his letter to Congress explaining the DOJ's decision in greater detail). Oh, and if you just want the short and quick version, just do the Roger Rabbit on down to the last few paragraphs of this post.

Generally, the DOJ believes DOMA violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. When determining whether a law is unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment, a court will examine how the law discriminates and who it discriminates against. All laws discriminate in some manner, of course, and so the pressing question in determining whether that discrimination is constitutional is how and whether that discrimination is relevant to the purpose of the law.

In a famous footnote in a famous Supreme Court case, Justice Harlan Stone birthed the concept of different levels of scrutiny for different laws, depending on who those laws discriminated against, saying:

"[P]rejudice against discrete and insular minorities may be a special condition, which tends seriously to curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities, and which may call for a correspondingly more searching judicial inquiry."

Now, for instance, if a law discriminates against racial minorities, that law is suspect and is subject to the most stringent level of scrutiny. The reasoning for the heightened level of scrutiny is that laws making racial distinctions were historically grounded in racism and were enacted by white majorities against black minorities on the basis of an irrelevant characteristic that could not be changed. If a law disriminates on the basis of sex, the law is subject to an intermediate level of scrutiny, since sex is (controversially) considered less of a suspect class than race. If a law discriminates on some other basis, it is held to the lowest level of scrutiny, and is thus more likely to be found constitutional.

What level of scrutiny to apply to laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is a largely unsettled question under US constitutional doctrine.

A key action item of the Homosexual Agenda has been to get courts to recognize that gay people belong to a "discrete and insular" minority group and that, therefore, laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation warrant a high level of scrutiny. Under constitutional doctrine, minorities demonstrate that they belong to such a "suspect group," by demonstrating that the group has faced historical discrimination, that they possess an immutable trait*, and that they are powerless to assert their rights via the political process**.

*Hence, another key action item of the Homosexual Agenda involves convincing the world that sexual orientation is not fluid; while a key action item of the Anti-Gay Agenda involves convincing the world that gay people can and should just go through ex-gay programs to become Not Gay Anymore.

**Hence, Maggie Gallagher and company's frequent attempts to convince the world that Homos Are Imbued With The Incredible Power of the Gay. Dun dun DUN!

In this way, does constitutional law frame many of these common "culture wars" narratives. A good discussion could be had as to whether any of these narratives reflect truth, or whether they are argued because they have to be argued for each side to "win."

So, what this has to do with the DOJ's DOMA announcement is that (a) because the Second Circuit has not yet articulated a standard of scrutiny for sexual orientation, (b) the DOJ has room to articulate its position that laws discriminating on the basis sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny. And, in his letter to Congress, Attorney General Holder did just that. He first noted that:

"...[T]here is, regrettably, a significant history of purposeful discrimination against gay and lesbian people, by governmental as well as private entities, based on prejudice and stereotypes that continue to have ramifications today. Indeed, until very recently, states have 'demean[ed] the existence' of gays and lesbians 'by making their private sexual conduct a crime.'"

Holder then noted that the "scientific consensus" is that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic, and that the longstanding ban on gays in the military and the lack of federal employment discrimination protections show that "gays and lesbians" have limited political power.

After establishing that laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation are subject to heightened scrutiny, Holder notes that the government must show that DOMA is "substantially related to an important government objective" and that the justifications for the law cannot be invented "post hoc in response to litigation." So, looking at DOMA, Holder notes that the legislative record "contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against."

For instance, a sample DOMA justification from the Congressional record: "Civil laws that permit only heterosexual marriage reflect and honor a collective moral judgment about human sexuality. This judgment entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality." (So much for Maggie Gallagher and company's claim that basically all "marriage defenders" have benign motives for opposing marriage equality, eh? Yet another narrative influenced by constitutional law doctrine).

Thus, DOMA is unconstitutional because it appears to be less about "defending marriage" and more about expressing moral disapproval of homosexuality.

In general, I think it's hard to predict what the effect of this announcement will be. For one, the DOJ's statement about heightened scrutiny is not binding on courts, and so theoretically the Second Circuit could be like, "That's nice. But we're going to apply the lowest level of scrutiny anyway." In which case, Holder indicated that the DOJ would defend it just as it had defended DOMA in other jurisdictions that did use the lowest level of scrutiny.

Two, Holder says that the DOJ won't defend DOMA if a heightened level of scrutiny applies, but he also suggested that members of Congress could defend the law if they chose. Yet, whether members of Congress would have standing to do so could raise a whole 'nother derailing can of worms akin to what we're now seeing in California with the Prop 8 trial.

And finally, what I find to be disappointing is that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce DOMA, even as it refuses to defend it, meaning that right now, today, legally married same-sex couples will not receive federal marriage benefits. And, in this concession we see a tension between the separation of powers and Obama's oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Although he likely agreed to continue enforcing DOMA in anticipation of the anti-gay knee-jerk wailing about an executive branch usurpation of judicial/legislative powers, it's unclear how enforcing a law he finds to be unconstitutional comports with his duty to defend the Constitution.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

And They Say Feminists Hate Men

An adoption charity in the UK is encouraging same-sex couples and single people to consider adoption, as "[d]ata from the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) shows that only 25% of children with hopes of being adopted ever find a family."

The director of the charity notes that myths discourage "some people from considering adoption." Among these are stereotypes that same-sex parents are worse than heterosexual parents and that single men make worse parents than single women.

Without a doubt, the Catholic Church and other anti-gay organizations such as National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage play their part in maintaining the stereotype that heterosexual parents are best. This notion is grounded largely in the idea that men and women are "complementary" to one another and thus bring different and unique traits to the parenting duo that a same-sex couple or a single parent, by definition, cannot. It's not that these organizations hate same-sex couples or singletons, they argue, it's just that they believe same-sex couples and single parents deprive children of the proper gender composition and, ultimately, of parenting competency.

Notice how inseparable sexism (against both women and men) is with gender complementarism. One's membership in a certain gender category supposedly tells us all we need to know about that person's ability to parent; individual competency or deviation be damned. According to the (sexist) conventional wisdom, women make better parents than men because women are supposedly inherently nurturing, caring, and loving, unlike men who are supposedly the "complement" and/or "opposite" of these characteristics. Thus, this wisdom further holds that in order to be a good parent, a man must pair-bond with a woman, whose duty it is to restrain his sexual, violent, and aggressive impulses.

Meanwhile, a quarter of the kids needing families in the UK go without. No doubt feminism will somehow somwhere be blamed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

E Pluribus Christian

OMFG, is Bryan Fischer of the conservative Christian group American Family Association serious with this shit?

In a rather one-sided take on how if the Native Americans would have just assimilated into Christianity they wouldn't have gotten themselves killed, he begins:

"The Powhatans, along with many of the indigenous peoples, seemed to have little respect for private property, including boundaries, and little regard for obedience to the eighth commandment and its prohibition against stealing. (On the Oregon Trail, the primary problems travelers suffered from the indigenous peoples were not massacres but thievery.)"

And that's said with no irony at all.

He continues, by blaming Native Americans for the violence Christians perpetrated upon them:

"[Pocohontas] became a follower of Christ, was baptized, and took the Christian name 'Rebecca'....

It’s arresting to think of how different the history of the American settlement and expansion could have been if the other indigenous peoples had followed Pocahontas’s example. She not only recognized the superiority of the God whom the colonists worshipped over the gods of her native people, she recognized the superiority (not the perfection) of their culture and adopted its patterns and language as her own.

In other words, she both converted and assimilated. She became both a Christian and an American (technically, of course, an Englishman [sic]). She melded into European and Christian civilization and made her identity as a Christian and an Englishman [sic] her primary identity. She was the first manifestation of what became our national slogan, 'E Pluribus Unum,' 'Out of many, one.'

Had the other indigenous people followed her example, their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless. Sadly, it was not to be.”

I mean, at this point can't you just kind of picture the other AFA staff members reading this and being all "Um, that was an [looks around at others]....interesting... [slowly backs up toward door] article....Bryan....[runs out the AFA building spraying self with Febreeze]."

But, of course, you can't actually imagine that because Fischer's allies who likewise believe that this brand of Christianity is the One True Religion so often let racist, bigoted, revisionist, and violent speech like this go unchallenged. Several commenters after the piece, indeed, lauded Fischer for having the "courage" to speak the truth and counter what they undoubtedly see as the overly-Politically-Correct account of history where Christians weren't the Big Saviors, but actually committed quite a few sins of their own including the rape, murder, and displacement of Native Americans.

It's funny. In a sad way. Only because straight, conservative Christian male leaders can't tell everyone enough how fucking courageous and awesome they are for opposing LGBT rights and abortion, two issues that uniquely affect same-sex couples and women, but their silence is deafening when it comes to breaking ranks with each other to counter one of their brother's suggestions that Native Americans were at fault for their own mass murder for not sufficiently complying with Christianity.

Let's also note Fischer's allusion to E Pluribus Unum. He says that he knows it means, "Out of many, one." But then, why does he pretend it really means, "Out of many, Christian"? The concept of a "melting pot" implies a fusion of many cultures and traditions, not using a strainer to get rid "inferior" ones so that everybody becomes Bryan Fischer's dominionist brand of Christian.

Goddess. The arrogance of some of the people we're stuck with on Earth.

Speaking of, when the Oankali land here in the near future, I'm sure Bryan Fischer will be first in line to assimilate. Since he's such a fan of the concept.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Best Anti-Gay Comment Ever!

I suppose it's low-hanging fruit. Whatever, don't judge. It's rotten, there's lots of it, and if you don't pick it, it stinks shit up.

This one's from some guy named Mark, commenting on some same-sex marriage article:

"Here is the definition of marriage 'equality' for those who can't or just plain don't want to comprehend its' meaning.....

One MAN + one WOMAN = sexual EQUALITY ie a REAL marriage and REAL love.

Now this is very easy to comprehend, even for those with a 1/2 brain.

I don't really give a darn what goes on in the bedroom. This is a NOT an issue or even a concern for Maryland's elected to waste time and tax dollars on. Only to those who just plain can't accept normal male-female or visa-versa relationships have to make this a political issue."

Isn't this so demonstrative of much of the anti-equality mindset?

a) He doesn't "give a darn" about people's personal sexual relationships or anything, he just wants everyone to know that some personal sexual relationships are REAL and others aren't. But other than that, yeah, no real interest. And also, capitalization makes statements more truthy and definitely show that you don't care about something. At ALL.

b) Mark's categorization of "normal male-female or visa-versa* relationships" as "REAL marriage and REAL love" is pretty much exactly what it means to be heterosupremacist. For "marriage defenders" who claim that bans on legal same-sex marriage aren't about telling same-sex couples they're inferior, I point to statements like Mark's. (2 down, 6,999,998 more to go!)

*Regarding that "visa-versa" thing. Is there a qualitative difference between "normal male-female" relationships and "normal female-male" ones? And what do credit cards have to do with turning things the other way around?

c) Mark then explains that this hetersupremacy is basically a self-evident truth to anyone with "a 1/2 brain."

Yes. Clearly.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Silvio Berlusconi trial to be presided over three women judges"

Or, you know, just three judges.

Which is also how the headline about Italy PM Silvio Berlusconi's trial for abuse of office and paying for an underage prostitute could have read.

I guess we are to infer something about the gender of the judges, something we are rarely, if ever, urged to infer when men preside over the trials of sex crimes.

Indeed, if Berlusconi's judges were men, it would go unmentioned.

Does this headline express rape culture's biggest anxiety- for women to use the power of the state to hold men accountable for the abuse of sexual entitlement to the degree that men have historically used it to perpetuate rape culture?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bisexuality in TV/Film

In response to speculation that one of the male characters on his show will "turn out to be bisexual," Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy has clarified:

''Blaine is NOT bi. He is gay, and will always be gay. I think it's very important to young kids that they know this character is one of them."

I guess by "young kids," Murphy means young gay kids and not bisexual ones.

Obviously, I appreciate gay and lesbian characters in the media, but is Murphy unaware that self-identified bisexual characters are hardly ubiquitous in TV and film either and thus might also like to see a character who is "one of them"? His statement implies otherwise.

Even characters who have dated both men and women are often placed into a "gay" or "lesbian" box once they begin dating people of the same-sex, with little insight shared with viewers over how the characters self-identify. I'm thinking of Willow Rosenberg, from Buffy, for instance, who had a loving relationship with Oz prior to her loving relationship with Tara (and Kennedy, ugh barf). As a fictional person, she may very well have been a lesbian, but there was room for her to be written as openly bisexual.

Throughout the show Willow self-identified as "kinda gay" to "gay now," yet she clearly loved Oz when she was with him and indeed told him that some part of her would always be waiting for him to return, even when she's "old and blue-haired." Does writing Willow as a lesbian imply that the Willow/Oz relationship was not authentic? Was she heterosexual when she dated Oz and then transformed into a lesbian once she joined the Wicca club went to college and met Tara? Was she bisexual the whole time? Does it matter?

Perhaps written with good intentions of depicting Gay Character For Representation Purposes, some characters nonetheless both elide the fluidity of human sexuality and invisibilize bisexual men and women. At the same time, gay producers and writers, like Murphy, might be intent on labeling a character gay out of a sensitivity to homosexuality being used as a plot device to bring in ratings.

You know the story.

A main female character is Fed Up With Men, or briefly considers letting herself be wooed by a hot lesbian, and/or goes to a gay bar with a lesbian (I'd include bisexual woman here, but really, it's usually a lesbian). A kiss between two women happens somewhere in there but by the end of things the main character, surprise surprise, turns out to be heterosexual, and the Guestbian vanishes, perhaps into the same dismal abyss that holds Tara MaClay and other victims of the Dead Lesbian Trope.

Although I'm not sure the kissing gimmick occurs as much with male characters, I could see why a gay writer for Glee might want to make sure one of his characters is Definitely Gay. (Although, I would also argue that Glee's depiction of cheerleaders Brittany and Santana has elements of les/bisploitation).

Yet, in Murphy's clarification of Blaine, I'm picking up on subtext that a character "turning out bisexual" rather than being full-fledged-Kinsey-Scale-6 gay is... a bad thing, somewhat akin to a character going through a gay phase and ending up heterosexual.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Near Tigers In the Zoo" and Other Narratives

[TW: Sexual assault, harassment]

From msnbc, 14 current and former members of the US military are suing the Pentagon for allegedly ignoring sexual harassment and rape claims:

"The lawsuit alleges that the Pentagon has failed to crack down on the sexist culture of the military services or implemented policies that would insure aggressive investigations of those accused and bar retaliation against service members who file complaints....

The lawsuit specifically names Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, as defendants, charging that both have failed to take aggressive measures to deal with the problem or follow edicts from Congress.

It charges, for example, that Rumsfeld in 2004 delayed reporting members to a commission mandated by Congress to investigate the military's handling of sexual assault cases and resisted congressional oversight of the issue. It accuses Gates of violating the plaintiffs' constitutional rights by permitting military commanders to use "nonjudicial punishments" for accused rapists — and failing to meet a congressionally mandated deadline for creating a database that would centralize all reports of rapes and sexual assaults."

The lawsuit calls for an "objective third party to handle sexual assault complaints" which sadly, seems necessary given the degree to which the military seems unwilling to take rape allegations seriously.

The links within this post describe several assaults experienced by the plaintffs, so a TW applies for anyone wishing to continue on to other sites. For instance, from msnbc:

"One of the more disturbing stories in the complaint is that of Sarah Albertson, a former Marine corporal at Camp Pendleton who says that after a night of partying, a superior office climbed into the bed where she was sleeping and forced himself on her.

'I just kind of panicked, froze. I didn't say anything,' she said. She admits she was drinking heavily that night, but after reporting the incident, she was still forced to work in the same office as her assailant."

She admits she was drinking heavily that night? So... what then? Unlike when men drink, a woman's right to refuse sex decreases as her alcohol intake increases?

Of those rapes that are reported, the military prosecutes only 8% of the them. Implications like the above don't help.

I first read of this lawsuit a couple of days before news broke of the sexual assault of reporter Lara Logan in Egypt, where she was covering the protests. I've been reading a lot of incredibly disturbing rape culture narratives about Logan's assault, one of which I want to highlight and juxtapose with this military lawsuit. I found this particular one uttered by a woman, following the CNN article; it's been echoed elsewhere:

"this goes to show you that we are no longer safe in those countries(hello) no woman thats pretty and blonde should be near tigers in the zoo."

Although an epidemic of un-punished rape is going on in the US military, a quite pervasive narrative is that rape is something that happens to women mostly in "those countries" and is committed by "those" sorts of men who are basically animals, unlike "our" men who are our civilized protectors (and filmmakers, and football stars, and internet heroes).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"DoubleX" Writer: No Sexism in Wikipedia

Oh the irony of a writer for Slate's "DoubleX" blog, which purports to give the lady view of stuff as opposed to the implicitly sex neutral view that Regular Slate presents, who uses that forum to slam feminist criticisms of gender imbalances in the media.

Heather MacDonald begins, first by mocking The New York Times' decision to run an article about Wikipedia's gender imbalance when Egypt is happening.

Yes yes, we know. Why are we focusing on stupid shit like Wikipedia when [Women In The Middle East/War/Real Politics/Tacos/Super Bowl/Teletubbies] are So Much More Important?

Well, then, why is she?

Perhaps MacDonald would say Slate has its priorities right by ghettoizing her article to the special lady section*. I suppose her law degree from Stanford and fellowship at the Manhattan Institute probably don't render her ideas or the topic she's writing about relevant enough for a "more general" mixed-sex readership.

(*And I don't think lady sections of newspapers are inferior to general sections. What I resent is that without a corresponding "XY" blog, Slate implies that the "XX" perspective is so alien and so un-notable that it's not appropriate for the mainstream regular Slate. It's the same Catch-22 with [insert minority group] Studies programs; Women and minorities are excluded from what's considered mainstream and so we create spaces where our work and perspectives are acknowledged, but that act of segregation might also reinforce that the white male perspective is more important, general, objective, universal and unbiased than everyone else's.)

Anyway, MacDonald continues:

"The idea that these gender imbalances represent gatekeeper bias was demonstrably false even before the Wiki reality check. Any female writer or speaker who is not painfully aware of the many instances in which she has been included in a forum because of her sex is self-deluded. Far from being indifferent—much less hostile—to female representation, every remotely mainstream organization today assiduously seeks to include as many females as possible in its ranks."

She says the idea of gatekeeper bias is "demonstrably false," but she fails to demonstrate how it's false. I mean, she says that all female writers and speakers have, "in many instances," only been included in forums because they were women. And because that's just not condescending enough, she's says that if we don't recognize that we haven't always earned these spots we're just "self-deluded." But, she doesn't actually provide evidence for this.

I guess when you're anti-feminist you get to Make Shit Up since everything's so self-evidently true, something she accuses feminists of doing throughout her piece, even while citing articles of feminists actually citing actual studies.

Also self-evident is that men are just inherently more interested in fact-based, abstract stuff, which explains why they obsessively write about such stuff on Wikipedia:

"The most straightforward explanation for the differing rates of participation in Wikipedia—and the one that conforms to everyday experience—is that, on average, males and females have different interests and preferred ways of spending their free time. These differences include, on average, the orientation toward highly 'fact-based realms' as well as the drive to acquire and expand abstract knowledge..."

Ah yes, trusty old after-the-fact anecdata that's used to justify the status quo. More men than women contribute to Wikipedia because... more men than women like contributing to Wikipedia. Good one, counselor. But the thing about purported "most straightfoward" explanations is that they're lazy and thus, often wrong.

Naturally, MacDonald doesn't cite evidence for her contention that "on average, males and female have different interests and preferred ways of spending their free time." I mean, that may be true. But it could also be true that, like so many other studies about gender, there is far more variation within each gender than between each gender. It could also be true that men and women like what we're told we should like. Do I give a shit about "celebrity fashion flubs?" No. But it's crossed my mind more than once whether I should like such things because I'm a woman.

She continues:

While there are some females who track baseball statistics with as much zeal as males, they are in the minority. Subjects of disproportionately female interest, such as celebrity fashion flubs, have not generated the same bank of shared knowledge as sports records. Wikipedia articles will, of course, reflect this disparity."

That last sentence, I believe, is kind of our point, no? Unfortunately, MacDonald seems to miss it.

The feminist complaint isn't that there's something inherently wrong with there being "male" Wikipedia articles on stuff like baseball statistics. Indeed, I enjoy reading articles like the one about baseball's Cy Young Award, which includes lots of manly stats. But, my fact-based lady brain would likewise enjoy an article on NCAA Softball Records (I mean, have you seen Cat Osterman's ERA for the Longhorns?)

The feminist complaint (well, mine, anyway) is that women are not contributing to Wikipedia in the same proportion men are, and that's a problem because Wikipedia then disproportionately reflect a male point of view and "male" interests rather than the points of view and interests of all people.

So, let's see how MacDonald handles that argument. She begins by noting Wikipedia's "no gatekeeper" policy:

"Famously, Wikipedia has no gatekeepers. Anyone can write or edit an entry, either anonymously or under his or her own name. All that is required is a zeal for knowledge and accuracy."

Well, saying Wikipedia has "no gatekeepers" isn't quite correct. One needs access to a computer and to internet. One also needs enough free time to write articles, without pay, using the proper formatting and abiding by Wikipedia's rules of style. Exploring such non-human gatekeepers alone could be quite tellng from a gender (and race, class, and able-ism) perspective.

It does a real disservice to the discourse to frame it as a simple matter of Men Like Baseball, Women Like Fashion ooga booga grunt grunt.

She continues, mostly by scoffing at the Obviously Ridiculous Notion that women in a male-dominated, anonymous (or pseudonymous) internet forum might not feel safe participating to the extent that men do. She writes:

"The Times quotes [Reagle] as follows: 'Adopting openness means being 'open to very difficult, high-conflict people, even misogynists,' [Reagle] said, 'so you have to have a huge argument about whether there is the problem.' Again, it's hard to know what he means."

"It's hard to know what that means" by misogyny and conflict on the world wide web? Does she participate in internet? Like...ever?

She continues:

Glossing generously once more, one might surmise that Reagle is saying that becoming a Wikipedia contributor means having to interact with 'very difficult ... people, even misogynists.' But the implication—that "misogynists' are disproportionately represented among Wiki contributors—is not backed up by a shred of evidence.

The implication isn't that misogynists are "disproportionately represented among Wiki contributors," it's that some, some contributors are misogynists. And sexist. And privileged. And that dealing with just one such person can, for many women, quickly become Not Worth It, especially if the endeavor that exposes a person to the misogyny is a voluntary one, like Wikipedia.

Overall, her article reads like a knee-jerk reaction to defend male contributors from accusations of bias. Yet, I question how familiar she is with internet debating culture in general, and Wikipedia debating culture, specifically. Discussions among Wikipedia users and representatives about this issue, on the other hand, are more nuanced and informed.

Perhaps believing the best about people (well, except for feminists) MacDonald seems to think that internet is mostly a venue for civil academic exchange of ideas, rather than the free-for-all frontier of fuckwaddery that it so often is. (And I do realize there are forums way, way worse on that scale than Wikipedia, which at least encourages civility).

Which makes her tidbit of advice, um, cute:

"If you don't like to debate, perhaps you should avoid the debate club rather than calling for its reconstitution into a mutual-agreement society."


Way to minimize misogyny by conflating it with Women Just Not Liking Debate With The Big Boys.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Some Men Say Men Aren't Violent, Make Threats To Make Point

[TW: threats, harassment, reference to sexual assault]

And so we have another example of how, in rape culture, observing how men and boys are taught to be aggressive and violent is actually worse than men being aggressive and violent.

I first read about this last week, right after posting my "On Threats" article.

Josh Jasper, who heads an advocacy group for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, conceived of a commercial to bring attention to the ways society teaches and condones aggressive behavior in men and boys. In this commercial, which can be viewed here, a white baby appears on the screen with a male voice saying, "He's tough. He's strong. He's aggressive. He's powerful. He raped his girlfriend. But he wasn't always this way. What are you teaching your son?"

Although brief, the commercial implies that (a) many parents teach their sons to be tough, strong, aggressive, and powerful, as possessing these traits is what it means to be a man in our society; and (b) these traits also correlate with entitlement to violate other people's sexual boundaries. What has gone unspoken, and perhaps could have been more explicit to heed off at least some criticism, is that while boys are often taught to display these "masculine" traits, many girls are taught to be the "opposite" of the above characteristics, frail, weak, passive, and powerless.

This binary contributes to a gendered power dynamic where men are disproportionately on the dishing-it-out end of rape. The commercial's gendering of the hypothetical perpetrator and victim seems to acknowledge that.

However, from the Des Moines Register:

"A men's blog that linked to the commercial said it promotes hatred of men."

A "men's blog," huh? I wondered what happened next. Oh, right:

"[An] offended viewer put it this way: 'You [Jasper] would be better off dead.'

Jasper, 36, the president and chief executive of Riverview Center in Dubuque, said the backlash prompted him to call the police and change his personal information on Facebook from the married father of a toddler to 'single.'

...The [men's] blog drew comments such as: 'That is such a disgusting ad' and 'I teach my son whenever I can: never protect a woman' and 'Josh Jasper should suffer the same fate as Nazi sympathizers after WWII - taken out and shot after a five-minute trial.'"

Undoubtedly, the commenters at that "men's blog" (and at Jasper's own blog) are upset because they view the commercial as framing All Men As Inherently Violent. Which, I don't think is true. Not at all. The phrase "what are you teaching your son" implies that violence and aggression is something boys and men learn through parenting and conditioning.

Yet, naturally, some see that as proof of "man-hating," which of course these reactionary types always use to justify further male violence and aggression. If people hate men, or are perceived as hating men, it's then okay to threaten their lives and compare them to Nazis.

These fellows don't seem to realize that it hurts their PR Man Campaign For Men when they try to prove men aren't violent by being violent themselves.

Anyway, one guy has a theory:

"The responses exemplify the way anonymous online forums can bring out the worst in people, said Michael Lashbrook, president of the Iowa Police Chiefs Association."

Or, you know, they exemplify exactly what the commercial was talking about. Part of being a man in our society means being justified in making death threats whenever men's social entitlement to violence is challenged.

(See also: Of Course]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dan Savage: Please Stop

[Trigger warning for fat hatred, fat shaming, dehumanization, bullying, suicide, and child abuse.]

In September 2010, Dan Savage founded the It Gets Better Project in response to the recent suicides of gay youth who had been bullied. About founding this project, Savage wrote:

"I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better."

It's a great idea, to have adults who have lived as children in a homophobic society telling kids that life might not always be as difficult.

But does Dan Savage think the bullying of gay kids is the only type of bullying that counts?

Read more, at Shakesville, where I have written a guest post.

I Agree With Sarah Palin

Rick "man on dog" Santorum is a "knuckle-dragging Neanderthal."

Not that I'd put it quite like that, of course. Sexist would probably be more appropriate.

Speaking of Palin's absence from the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend, Santorum opined, “I don't live in Alaska and I'm not the mother to all these kids and I don't have other responsibilities that she has."

Sarah Palin is a public figure who is the mother of five children. Rick Santorum is a public figure who is the father of seven children, six of whom are 18 or younger.

Rick Santorum is a "defender" of the "traditional family." Not surprisingly, unlike his own status as a parent, Santorum's statement evidences a worldview where Palin's status as a parent degrades her competency in the public arena.

Many "marriage defenders" who are really into the "traditional family" vehemently object to gender neutral references to parenting. Replacing the words "mother" and "father" with "parent one" and "parent two," they believe, is an assault on what it means to be mothers and fathers.

Notice, then, how even though Santorum does have "all these kids," he is careful to note that he is not "the mother" to them. He is the father, and that carries with it different assumptions, responsibilities, and implications. Indeed, whilst suggesting that Palin's parenthood interferes with her public life the relationship between his own parenthood and public activities doesn't even have to be implicated, because it's just assumed that dads don't have to make any difficult work-childraising choices."

Motherhood and fatherhood are two complementary roles that are equally important to a child's upbringing, or so it goes. When we understand this, Santorum's statement comes as no surprise.

It is helpful, though, in demonstrating the false pedestal on which so many "marriage defenders" place motherhood and women. It's awesome and amazing and special when women are mothers, they say. Well, as long as they don't try to do the things that fathers do.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Women: Wikipedia Wants You!

Via The New York Times, less than 15% of the contributors to Wikipedia are women.

As a frequent browser of and sometimes-contributor to Wikipedia, this number does not surprise me. Every now and then, I make it part of my feminist agenda to edit articles that present men as the default human being or that are obviously written from an anti-feminist perspective. It's often little things like fixing the "generic masculine" but sometimes its bigger things like arguing for the consolidation of, to be generic here, two articles about "humans" and "female humans."

My edits aren't always popular among the Wikipedia boys' club, but often I'm able to make a convincing argument for my edit by appealing to other contributors' sense of accuracy.

The Times article, cited above, discusses the gender-based disparity as being similar to how many women wrongly feel they are unqualified to submit op-eds to newspapers:

"It would seem to be an irony that Wikipedia, where the amateur contributor is celebrated, is experiencing the same problem as forums that require expertise. But Catherine Orenstein, the founder and director of the OpEd Project, said many women lacked the confidence to put forth their views. 'When you are a minority voice, you begin to doubt your own competencies,' she said."

I would agree. The reasons for the gender disparity in Wikipedia contributions are likely multi-faceted. Being a contributor requires access to a computer and internet, as well as the time to do what is, essentially, unpaid labor. Women also tend to underestimate their intelligence, while men tend to overestimate theirs, as the Wikipedia article for "Illusory Superiority" also briefly mentions, which should not also be overlooked as a possible causative factor here.

And to add to that, it can be difficult in male-dominated space to put forth views that some will undoubtedly interpret as "radical feminist PC bullshit." It can be draining to have to fight that battle day in and day out, especially in non-feminist spaces where it's assumed that anti-feminist perspectives are objective and feminist ones are biased. See, for instance, the talk page for the "Gender neutrality in English" article.

Nonetheless, Wikipedia is many people's go-to source for quick and easy summaries of many topics. It's important that our information about the world not be presented mostly from the limited, and therefore not-fully-accurate, male perspective. I mean, we've been down this road before, right, with only a segment of the population writing reality for everyone else? It'd be nice if it didn't happen with internet too, kthx.

I know from the comments that many of you have specialized knowledge in lots of different areas- whether it's math, literature, dancing, music, biking, linguistics, art, pop culture, sports, atheism, Assassin's Creed, or anything else. You non-commenting readers probably know some stuff too.

If you have the time, resources, and desire to potentially have run-ins with MRA types, consider contributing to Wikipedia. Start your own article, or add to one that already exists.

I'm making it a priority of mine to do so more often.

(See also, Echidne).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blogger Accuses Time of Anti-Woman Bias

[TW: Sexual assault; discussions of domestic violence]

From Time:

"Despite its high levels of gender equality in the workplace and political sphere, the country has by the far the highest level of reported rape in Europe and one of the lowest conviction rates, a fact that has led to criticism from Amnesty International and the UN. That criticism, in turn, has led to soul-searching in the Swedish criminal justice system as to whether Swedish police and prosecutors are failing vulnerable women."

Despite this situation, Time chose to frame the story containing this tidbit of information as follows.

Headline: "Courtroom Conflict: Julian Assange's Prosecutor Accused of Anti-Men Bias."

From the first paragraph:

"Monday, a retired female judge accused the female Swedish prosecutor attempting to extradite Assange of having a 'biased view' against men." [emphasis added]

Of what relevance is the prosecutor's gender? Oh, right. Women who try to hold men accountable in a rape culture must hate men.

Of what relevance is the gender of the person making the bias accusation? Are we to infer from the retired judge's noted femaleness that her claim about the prosecutor's anti-man bias is more credible than if she were a man? I contend that part of being a woman living in rape culture is that we are finally seen as Totally Objective Observers only when doing so perpetuates rape culture.

The article quotes another lady:

"She seems to take it for granted that everybody under prosecution is guilty. I think she is so preoccupied with the situation of battered women and raped women that she has lost balance."

Until there's actual evidence of malicious prosecution, as opposed to gossipy accusations of "bias," I don't expect "female prosecutors" to wear kid gloves and coddle people accused of rape. I also don't see a "preoccupation with the situation of battered women and raped women" to be a negative trait in the people charged with prosecuting those who beat and rape women.

I have an observation:

The prosecutor's alleged anti-man bias is but an accusation, not a supported fact. It is an accusaton demonstrating the sad truth that those who seek to hold men accountable and to counter male sexual entitlement seem to take it for granted that everyone doing so is a man-hater who just isn't seeing things Rationally and Objectively.

I have another observation:

Sweden has "by the far the highest level of reported rape in Europe and one of the lowest conviction rates." This statement was made not as an accusation, but presented as a statement of observable fact. Some people are raping other people and getting away with it to an alarming degree.

But why is the really big take-away from the article how the "female prosecutor" might, or might not, have an anti-man bias?

If I were in charge of shit, like say Time, I'd start looking into that connection.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Threats

[TW: Threats; Harassment; Apologism; Sexual Assault]

I pulled this from the neverending-comment-thread because I think it deserves highlighting for purposes of making a larger point. Commenter EDB5fold aptly noted:

For a frightening number of people (mostly men, who are more often than women socialized to respond to things they don't like with violence), identifying yourself as a feminist, or saying something that's ideologically in line with some part of feminism, is considered sufficient grounds for threatening your life. I won't separate some amorphous public concept of feminism from the lived realities of feminists.

To which I responded:

I'm very glad you brought this up because it is so common, so much a part of our lives, that I think it often gets overlooked. Rape/death threats are a fact of life for most feminist bloggers, especially high-traffic bloggers. I have received them in comment threads and via email, and nearly every feminist blogger I read has received them.

From what I have seen, this is not a phenomenon that MRAs experience, at least to the degree that feminists do. That, I think, underscores a lot of the male aggression entitlement issues that I have been talking about. The status quo in a rape culture is male violence against women.

Catherine Mackinnon has written, to paraphrase, that some wrongs are so common they are sometimes thought of as too common to be atrocious. And likewise, some wrongs are so atrocious they are assumed to be uncommon.

I guess I'm reminded of how sucky it is that rape/death threats are so casually treated by mainstream society as Just An Expected Part of Feminist Blogging. Maybe it's our just deserts for "hating men"?

[TW: Suicide, threats]

Indeed, when I first started blogging, an anti-feminist man sent me a few incredibly creepy emails encouraging me to commit suicide and outlining various ways I could do it. When I mentioned that at an anti-feminist, anti-gay blog, a commenter noted, 'Well, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar,' implying that I brought the threats upon myself.

Let's talk about this.

I am of course speaking from my own experience and from what I see as both a writer and reader of many feminist blogs and as a reader of MRA/anti-feminist/non-feminist blogs, but it's not often that I hear of feminists making veiled threats to MRA bloggers where we fantasize about them getting "rape[d] in the dead of night."

Indeed, I'm just not seeing large numbers of feminists going to MRA and other anti-feminist sites and celebrating, encouraging, and joking about sexual assault and violence against male and anti-feminist bloggers.

Many feminists would rightly be appalled at and condemn that sort of violent speech.

Yet, when people do it to feminist, such threats are so expected that it's often treated as unremarkable. That is the status quo.

What's the reason for this? Well, what does a feminist expect if she's going to espouse "man-hating" views, right?

If we think of some of the stereotypes of feminists, it becomes apparent that these caricatures exist not only to minimize feminist arguments, but to silence us and further justify the status quo of male violence against women. They perpetuate a culture where it's okay for some types of people to violate another type of people's boundaries.

Framing feminists as loud-mouthed screechy man-hating cunts, and that is indeed how we are widely framed in non-feminist circles, makes it easier for people to believe that we are somehow responsible for real or threatened acts of violence against us. Even if people condemn theats against feminists, many of them still say, well, honey + vinegar, remember ladies? Better watch your tone and make sure you are sufficiently non-offensive to hyper-defensive men who are, themselves, quite okay with aggression as long as they're the ones dishing it out.

Yet, what I've come to learn over the years is that while men are expected, encouraged, and entitled to be aggressive and angry and foaming at the mouth about anything from politics to traffic to football games, no political argument coming from a female feminist will ever be deemed sufficiently pleasant, accomodating, smiley, giggly, or civil enough if it's an argument against rape culture, patriarchy, or misogyny. Usually what happens is that criticisms of these wrongs are deemed much worse than the object of the feminist criticism.

And if, goddess forbid, a feminist actually shows anger, the non/anti-feminist will exaggerate it so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that's ultimately used to discredit hir.

It is no coincidence that these stereotypes about what feminists are like, and how responsible we are for threats and violence against us also parallel rape apologist narratives like "what was she doing drinking so much, anyway?"

Both preserve the status quo of "victim" being viewed as just an essential characteristic of women. Both preserve the status quo that some people's boundaries don't matter.

The feminist starting point is that our arguments are met with threats of violence from those along the political spectrum. The non/anti-feminist and MRA position is not, which underscorse the perversity of MRAs so often leeching the language of feminist equality to advance their so-often-resoundingly-anti-feminist agenda.

Accepting the proposition that feminism and non/anti-feminism are just two different-but-equally-legitimate ways of seeing things means accepting the propostion that pervasive violence and threats against women are just as legitimate as non-violence against women and respecting our boundaries.

"There is no neutral in rape culture."

Non-feminism is anti-feminism.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Kids' weight rises the longer mom works, study finds"

Or, you know, if both parents work.

Which is how the headline also could have been framed, since the lead researcher in the above-referenced study emphasized that this weight increase was a "family balance issue" rather than a "maternal employment" one.

But I guess it's just assumed that "dad" doesn't have to make any difficult work-childraising choices, thus making him less responsible for the weight gain of his children.

And besides, everyone* loves a headline that has that sensational OMG-Feminism-Causes-The-Fat ring to it.

*I don't.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Those of you in Generation Z may especially appreciate this video:

Description/Rough transcript: In a news clip from 1994, Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel, and another newscaster (who I'm not familiar with) try to make sense of the newfangled internets.

First, they speculate on how to pronounce the "@" symbol. Then, Gumbel notes how weird it is that a link to is basically saying there's violence "at" NBC. Sort-of annoyed, he scoffs "What is the inter-net anyway?"

Couric explains, "Internet is that massive computer network. The one that's becoming really big now."

Gumbel asks, skeptically, "What do you mean?... What, do you write to it, like mail?"

Couric, looking perplexed, tries to explain, "No, a lot of people use it, they can communicate with NBC writers..." She looks for help off-camera and says, "Allison, can you explain what internet is?"

A man off-camera explains that the internet is a "computer billboard," and the unidentified reporter chimes in to add that a lot of people used "internet" to communicate with loved ones during a recent earthquake when the phone lines were down.

Couric asks, "You don't need a phone line to operate internet?"

Unidentified reporter says, "Apparently not."

I think what I like most is how they keep calling it "internet." Just internet.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What He Knows

I don't particularly care what Christian pa$tor Joel Osteen's views about anything are. But, because he undoubtedly influences millions of Americans, I will address his recent statements regarding homosexuality. When asked whether it was a sin, he responded:

“'Yes, I’ve always believed it,' stated the megachurch pastor. 'The scripture shows that it’s a sin.'
'I’m not one of those to bash homosexuals and tell them they’re terrible people and all that. Sometimes the church focuses on one issue or two issues and there are plenty of other ones. So I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life. I mean sin means to miss the mark.'"

Okay. That's hardly an unusual position for an evangelical Christian to take. Are we all surprised by this? The interview continued, though:

"Addressing the topic of good and evil, Morgan asked Osteen if he thought that Adolf Hitler was evil, or if there was any good in a man like that. Characteristic of the glass half-full pastor, Osteen deflected the question by pretending not to know it all.

What a sad state of discourse, not to mention of Osteen's brand of Christianity, when a self-appointed Christian prophet is less certain about the evilness of Hitler than he is about the evilness of love.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

News of the Not-Helpful

I like to think I maintain a healthy sense of skepticism. Not for the sake of being contrarian, but because what is thought of as "conventional wisdom" is sometimes neither.

My skepticism of different ways of understanding the world, generally, is sort of a sliding scale. As a layperson, I tend to be more skeptical of the social and behavioral sciences and less skeptical of the natural sciences. Astrological, Freudian, and religious claims would land at the "most skeptical" end.

That being said, I'm not sure what to make of this Newsweek article. The gist of it is that, basically, "almost everything [we] hear about medicine is wrong," because:

"...[T]he very framework of medical investigation may be off-kilter, leading time and again to findings that are at best unproved and at worst dangerously wrong. The result is a system that leads patients and physicians astray—spurring often costly regimens that won’t help and may even harm you."

The article continues on to cite a physician who criticizes the "shoddy statistics" and other claims made in many biomedical and genetic studies.

I initially had trouble articulating what bothered me about this article. After some thought, it seems to fall into that category of ScArY HeAlTh NeWs that the mainstream media lurves feeding us but that essentially makes us lowly laypeople feel helpless, frustrated, and scared.

In general, I think mainstream reporting of science and health studies is pretty shoddy. Results get oversimplified, broad conclusions get drawn, and headlines get exaggerated.

Studies about sex differences that show remarkable overlap between men and women get misinterpreted as "she talks a lot, he listens a little," creating narratives about reality that are actually fictional.

Folks who are perhaps well-intentioned nonetheless create totally-scary-but-unhelpful health advice and "warning signs" for cancer with lists of symptoms that are so vague and common they could apply to any number of conditions.

Two years ago the media had us all fixin' to bunker down and then ultimately perish from the swine flu.

Now, we learn, Don't Believe Science. Which, of course, anti-science folks will latch onto as proof that we should reject science, global warming, and vaccines in favor of Christianity.

But wait!

Not so fast. After telling us how sucky science is, the Newsweek article ends:

"Of course, not all conventional health wisdom is wrong. Smoking kills, being morbidly obese or severely underweight makes you more likely to die before your time, processed meat raises the risk of some cancers, and controlling blood pressure reduces the risk of stroke. The upshot for consumers: medical wisdom that has stood the test of time—and large, randomized, controlled trials—is more likely to be right than the latest news flash about a single food or drug."

Alrighty then.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gallagher: Abortion Leads To Hetero Anal Sex

In a way, I agree with anti-equality activist Maggie Gallagher's latest.

The sexual revolution led to increased male sexual access to women and a "porn-saturated culture" that "empowers young males" while disempowering women.

Where I think she's wrong is in framing abortion as the cause of this sexual revolution and, consequently, the cause of men coercing women into having anal sex. In a paragraph that reads as a re-hash of one of those anti-gay screeds about how "homosexual behavior" causes Gay Bowel Syndrome, Gallagher opines:

"Anal sex in particular is a response to our porn-saturated culture, in which young men are increasingly viewing images of anal sex with women and asking their girlfriends for it. Women have less sexual power than they did even a generation ago. When it comes to our sexual mores, young men rule the roost.

Anal sex is painful, unsanitary, unsatisfying for women and creates unique risks for serious physical diseases (if you doubt me, go read the Wikipedia entry on the subject) because the anus is not designed for sexual intercourse, increasing the risk of torn flesh and the intermingling of bodily fluids—blood, semen, fecal matter—that can spread an astonishing variety of diseases. The female partner is far more at risk than the man in these encounters. This should be a feminist issue."

Okay. Fine. If Gallagher, who I've rarely heard talk about feminist issues and in fact espouses sexist essentialist views, wants to slap that trendy I'm-a-Conservative-Feminist button on the lapel of her jean jacket and start setting our feminist priorities, I'm not going to tell her she's not a feminist.

But here's the difference between her feminism and mine.

Maggie Gallagher's feminist way of dealing with the pornification of women is to (a) suggest putting restrictions on private sexual behavior between adults and (b) to punish the "unempowered" women who live in our rape culture by putting restrictions on their bodies.

My feminist way of dealing with the pornification of women would be to try to counter all of the recurring patterns in our culture that tell us that women are the sex class, existing primarily for the sexual enjoyment of men.

Unlike Maggie Gallagher's apparent position, I refuse to accept the proposition that sex is the natural and everlasting state of womankind.

PS- Abortion. Not really like slavery, btw.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No on 3

[TW: Sexual assault]

Via Mother Jones:

"Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.

For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the 'No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,' a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to 'forcible rape.' This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion."

See also: Things you can do about it.

Because That Helps?

[TW: Violence; Anti-gay hatred]

Uganda has been mulling over a bill that would, under certain conditions, mandate life imprisonment or the death penalty for people engaging in same-sex sexual behavior and/or same-sex marriage. US Christian evangelicals have been instrumental in advocating for this legislation, indeed some even believe the execution of gays would be an "exemplary" policy for the US to implement too.

Well, those folks are probably doing a little touchdown dance now. From CNN:

"A Ugandan gay rights activist whose name was published on a list of the nation's 'top homosexuals' was bludgeoned to death in his home near the capital.

A neighbor found David Kato dead and notified authorities, according to his lawyer, John Onyango.
Kato's money and some clothes were missing after the attack, Onyango said.

It was unclear whether Kato's killing was linked to his gay rights activism or a front-page story in a Ugandan tabloid that reignited anti-gay sentiments late last year.

The story included a list of 'top 100 homosexuals' with their photos, addresses and a banner with the words 'Hang Them.' Kato's name and picture were on the list."

The editor of the tabloid was quick to clarify:

"When we called for hanging of gay people, we meant ... after they have gone through the legal process," said Giles Muhame. "I did not call for them to be killed in cold blood like he was."

Oh rly?

Because I would argue that (mis)using the power and authority of the state to legitimize the murder of people engaging in consensual same-sex sexual behavior would actually be more abhorrent than some lone gunman killing a gay man in "cold blood."

In a state does that not criminally sanction homosexuality, when a person kills another because that person is gay, many in the community widely view that violence as abhorrent. For instance, even in the US where homobigotry still exists, many (though not all) would rightly view the murder of a gay man as a violation of community norms even if they disagreed with homosexuality itself.

But when the state implicates itself and directly participates in the murder of gay people, it is different. By explicitly authorizing the execution of people based solely on their sexual orientation, the state sends a message that violence against that particular group is condoned, acceptable, and encouraged.

When state officials execute gay people, they are only "carrying out their orders." They are just "complying with the law." Murder becomes a bureaucratic duty and is viewed as some sort of public good, leaving murderers (and would-be murderers like Muhame) free to wipe their hands clean after they commit a gross atrocity with, not only the approval of their own consciences, but the approval of the community at large.