Thursday, March 31, 2011

30 Rock: Getting It Right

Over at AfterEllen, Trish Bendix asks why 30 Rock "gets a pass on its lesbian jokes." (She speculates that it's because (a) lesbians lurve Tina Fey, and (b) "The show doesn’t discriminate when it comes to storyline fodder."). As a connoisseur of both lesbians and 30 Rock, I too have an opinion about that. Well, I have an opinion about the episode "Blind Date," anyway, and why it is full of win.

The premise of "Blind Date" is that Jack sets Liz up on a date with his friend "Thomas." Long story short: Liz arrives at the restaurant for the date only to be greeted by the beautiful Gretchen Thomas, a woman, portrayed by Stephanie March (who many lesbian, bisexual, and queer women also lurve for her portrayal of ADA Alex Cabot and subtextual relationship with Olivia Benson).

Anyway, during the date, the following conversation ensues:

Liz: [laughing] Why would Jack just assume that we're lesbians?!

Gretchen: I am a lesbian.

Upon hearing this revelation, Liz guffaws a dorky, overly-enthusiastic: "That's awesome!"

The humor is in how the supposedly open-minded Liz clearly had a stereotypical image in her head of what lesbians look like and Gretchen, being blonde, feminine, and beautiful, did not fit into that image. This subversion of stereotypes is reinforced when Gretchen asks Liz if people mistake her for a lesbian often and Liz responds by playing a montage in her head of people mistaking her younger self for a lesbian and a boy. The message: The hetero Liz Lemon out-lesbians actual lesbians. Er, that is, lesbians can be stereotypically feminine and heterosexual women can be stereotypically masculine. (Yeah, not news to many of us, but I suppose we give mainstream television brownie points for this observation).

Secondly, during the episode, Gretchen and Liz hit it off and discover that they are compatible in their own nerdy, if not sapphic, way. They talk about plastics, joke about being like "Oprah and Gayle," and bond over being single (Gretchen on being scared of dying alone in her apartment: "And it’s not just choking, ever since I turned thirty every time I get in or out of the bathtub I think in my head 'Careful…careful…'"). In this way is a (albeit fleeting) lesbian character not presented as Other, but as akin to, and perhaps even more "normal" than, Liz's heteronormative main character.

Indeed, the audience is invited to be somewhat appalled at Liz's use of Gretchen. Although both women are aware of the other's sexual orientation, their continual "dates" blur the line between platonic friendship and romance. Gretchen at first expressed no interest in "chasing a straight girl," but Liz, bored, lonely, and flattered that Gretchen thinks she's "great," pursues an ambiguous relationship by initiating further contact, date-like encounters, and trips to IKEA. When Gretchen expresses concern about their evolving girlfriend-like relationship and says they need to take a break, Liz responds:

Liz: Okay wait, what if we made a pact. What if we say that in like 25 years if neither of us has someone, we'll move in together and be roommates? And even though I'm not into the sex stuff, if it helps you... I would let you... [looking grossed out] do stuff... to me.

Gretchen: [not amused] I can't be around you anymore. Bye Liz.

So, in answer to Bendix's question. I give 30 Rock a pass because the joke's not on lesbians. But, it's not on heterosexual women either. It's more specific than that and that's why it's funny. It's on clueless people, like Liz Lemon, who think they're liberal or progressive yet who also don't understand why a lesbian wouldn't leap at the chance to be in a pseudo-relationship with a straight woman who is grossed out by the thought of "doing stuff" with another woman.

This is not to say that 30 Rock always gets the humor right. Just that, in this episode, I believe it did.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Competing Anti-Feminist Narratives

I found one of my recent Google Alerts for feminism so hilarious, I had to take a screen shot:


But which narrative is going to win?!

Really, judging by the frequency with which both propositions are put forth, I think many anti-feminists see no logical flaws in simultaneously declaring both arguments winners.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Espenson: On Comedy

This is why former Buffy, Firefly, Angel, and Battlestar Galactica, et al, writer Jane Espenson should be the supreme czar of all media. Writing at her blog, she notes:

"...[O]n almost every show in my career, I’ve found myself in a political argument at some point with someone to the right of me. (To the political right I mean, although in half the cases they were also literally to the right of me.) Sometimes these writers self-identified as conservative. But usually they thought of themselves as liberal, but just felt that 'some people' 'took things' 'too far.'

I think this is because comedy writers tend to see sensitivity to the feelings of others as anti-comedic. Political correctness is the enemy of funny, they declare. If we eliminate jokes at the expense of those who are different than us, we’ll be left shivering and naked in a comedy landscape made of nothing but self-deprecation and puns. This is nonsense, of course. Any joke that’s only funny after you’ve glanced around the room to check the demographics, is probably not a joke worth telling. And I don’t just say this because such jokes are mean-spirited. Although that would be reason enough. Here’s why I say this:

Racist/sexist/homophobic jokes in fact tend NOT to be funny not only because they cause pain, but because they are bombs instead of scalpels. A joke that pokes fun at a person is sharpest, funniest, when it finds that perfect detail, the most subtle observation of what sets that person apart. Someone’s race or gender is unlikely to be the most subtle thing about them, and certainly it’s not the most specific."

That's why I grant people no points for "politically incorrect" humor. In general, a lot of people think they're being Incredibly Brave and counter-cultural for saying things they think are "politically incorrect."

It's as though they don't fully understand that the label "politically correct" is actually a slur that's a synonym for an uptight, unfunny, stick-in-the-mud buzzkill. And because being called "politically correct" is generally seen as a negative, being "politically incorrect" isn't brave at all.

Indeed, "political incorrectness," in my lexicon, is usually code for being an uninspired asshole. I mean, does the world really need more "women: so naggy, right?" and "men: sure like sex a lot" jokes?

Monday, March 28, 2011

DOMA Update: Woman's Deportation On Hold

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents the federal government from recognizing all marriages that are not between one man and one woman, US Citizenship and Immigration Services will not recognize same-sex marriages for green card purposes.

Well, last week, an immigration judge in New York put on hold the deportation order of a woman who is legally married to another woman until the legal status of DOMA becomes more clear. If DOMA is overturned their green card application would go through just as a legally married heterosexual couple's would.

This decision comes in the wake of the Justice Department's recent announcement that it will not defend DOMA in the Second Circuit cases challenging the law.

Just more evidence that this debate, for many, isn't a mere abstraction. DOMA has tangible harmful effects on actual people.

And yet... we still get these Deep Thoughts from the commenting peanut gallery:

"woman + woman < man + woman. How can anyone say they are equal? Woman was not made for horse. Woman was not made for child. Woman was not made for woman. Woman was made for man. These are truths."

Umm. Yeah. You go, Team Anti-Gay!

Fannie's Bonus Hint: Talking about "woman" as though she's not present and as though she "was made" to be an adult-male-penis receptacle isn't the best way to win the ladies to your side, dude.

ps- officially more lesbian now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Anti-Feminist Quote of the Day: On "Woman"

Celebrating Phyllis Schlafly and Suzanne Venker's new anti-feminist tome The Flipside of Feminism, Rebecca Hagelin opines in The Washington Times:

"The American woman wants to be married; to care for her own children, instead of sending them to day care; and prefers to work part time rather than the long hours of C-suite executives.

So... there's only one American woman then?

But seriously, what on earth could this possibly mean? Does Hagelin sincerely believe that she can accurately inform us as to what half of the population of America wants by rhetorically reducing "her" to one woman?

Is the consciousness of American women located in a floating hub and subsequently downloaded and then shared by all of us?

By claiming to know what "the American woman wants," Hagelin sets up a standard for the correct performance of American womanhood. Women who deviate from this performance and express individuality, nuance, or disagreement with these alleged wants of "the American woman" are implicitly framed as unauthentic women.

Defining some women out of womanhood because we might want those C-suites is misogyny. That's the flipside feature of anti-feminism.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Today I'm going to take a break from political blogging (and on a Thursday of all days!) and post what I think is one of the most endearing coming-out revelations portrayed on television. From Grey's Anatomy, we have Erica Hahn, MD, newly-realized Alpha Lesbian.

[Note: This clip does not contain graphic depictions of sex, but it could be NSFW if you work for, like, Focus on the Family or something. In which case, why are you even interested in watching a video featuring lady lovers?]

Rough translation/description: Callie and Erica are lying in bed after having sex. Oddly, they are still, like, completely clothed, but I digress:

Erica: [laughing] That was a-mazing.

Callie: [smiling] Yay! It was for me too.

Erica: I mean... that was amazing!

Callie: [Getting up from bed] Me too!

Erica: [Still in bed, watching Callie] My whole life. My whole adult life I have been with men and it always felt... fine. I mean, good. I just never... I mean. I did. But, not like this. This is like needing glasses.

Callie: Have I blinded you?

Erica: When I was a kid... I would get these headaches. So, I went to the doctor and they said I needed glasses. And it didn't make sense to me because I could see fine. And then I get the glasses and I put them on and I'm in the car on the way home. Suddenly, I yell. [starts to laugh and cry]. Because the big green blobs that I've been staring at my whole life weren't big green blobs. They were leaves, on trees. I could see the leaves. And I didn't even know I was missing the leaves. I didn't even know leaves existed. And then... leaves! You [looks at Callie] are glasses.

Callie: [Starts to look a little freaked out]

Erica: [laughing] I am so gay. I am so so SO gay. I am extremely gay.

Callie: Ummm... I have to go. [Abruptly leaves].]

1) So, after contemplating this scene for two seconds, it struck me that I relate to Erica here. Both with the needing glasses bit when I was a kid, and the feeling so gay bit after first kissing a woman. Oh, and also, the having my first girlfriend panic afterwards and slowly back out the door like, "Welp that was great but I'm outta here, I'm not gay or anything."

Which, you know, I can totes laugh about now but it did kind of suck at the time to be in an intensely secretive relationship. (It gets better). Not that my first girlfriend's somewhat slower realization of her own sexual identity diminished my own feelings of gayness. My reaction was more like, "Come on! It's so amaZING! Everyone just be gayyyyyyy! I can see leaves!"

Shut up. I was 19.

2) I'm not crazy about how the writers disappeared Erica and I do think Callie's latest love interest Arizona Robbins is pretty awesome, but Erica will always have a place in my heart (er, I mean, um, Callie's heart), not only because she's a kick-ass fictional surgeon, but because she was pretty laid back about Callie's coming-out shenannigans with Dr. You-Know-Who. (Although her "you can't only be kind-of a lesbian" comment to Callie wasn't cool).

3) While I think Callie's lesbian/bisexual freakouts with Erica were maybe a bit exaggerated, I adore Sara Ramirez's portrayal of Callie. She's one of the few women in television whose body size is larger than Hollywood's Usual Standards For the Ladies where you're basically "plus-sized" if you're over a size 4. And yet, her character is written to be and is portrayed as funny, sexy, sexual, smart, attractive, uncertain, scared, human, healthy, and to top it all off, capable of "build[ing] arms and legs out of nothing." She is a superstar.

4) Why did Erica wear a doiley to bed? NTTAWTT.

Talk about whatever you want in the comments. Especially if it involves my fave topic of sapphic subtext or maintext.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Mere Unwillingness"

[TW: Graphic descriptions of sexual assault from a court case; violence]

A while back, I noted how the media often points out the gender of female judges and prosecutors in sex crimes cases. By noting the gender, the media implies that it is a relevant factor in the case. And, perhaps it is. Yet, the gender of male judges and prosecutors is not routinely mentioned in sex crimes cases, implying that a man's gender is not relevant because, unlike women, men are not biased.

Indeed, judges who are not male, not white, and not heterosexual often have to go out of their way to assure everyone that they are not biased and beholden to any "special interest group." Straight judges rarely have to assure everyone that they aren't beholden to the special interest group of straight people. Men don't generally assure everyone that they will prosecute sex crimes cases fairly or that they do not hate women. White people don't regularly promise they won't advance the interests of white people at everyone else's expense.

Part of the privilege that comes with possessing characteristics that are considered the default in the US is that these characteristics are less recognized as aspects of one's identity and, accordingly, are viewed as Less Relevant To Things. Thus, the white person's experience of the world in white-dominated societies, especially as it pertains to matters of race, is the apparent sun around which all other life experiences orbit. The man's experience, especially as it pertains to matters of sex and gender, is more objective. Neutral. More accurate than other experiences.

Whereas Hon. Sonya Sotomayor is castigated for suggesting that a wise Latina might bring something different to the bench than does someone from a different background, a man gets a free pass to think all people experience the world just as he does and that, if they don't, their perceptions are wrong. I call this phenomenon illusory perceptive superiority (aka- fauxbjectivity).

Observe. In a 1981 Maryland rape case, a male judge dissents from a case in which the majority concluded a jury could have rationally found that a man was guilty of rape.

Under Maryland law (at least as it was written back then), a "person" was guilty of rape if that "person" engaged in "vaginal intercourse" by force or threat of force against the will and without the consent of the other "person." A key finding of fact in this particular case was whether the woman resisted, or was prevented from resisting because the man's acts caused her fear of imminent bodily harm. In making this determination, it had to be ascertained as to whether this woman's fear was reasonable under the circumstances.

So, right off the bat, I can think of some problems with men being the deciders of whether a woman's fear of bodily harm was or was not reasonable, the primary one being that men and women generally experience rape culture differently. Indeed, let's see how the dissenting male judge frames the facts to reach his conclusion that the man should not have been found guilty of rape:

"While courts no longer require a female to resist to the utmost or to resist where resistance would be foolhardy, they do require her acquiescence in the act of intercourse to stem from fear generated by something of substance. She may not simply say, 'I was really scared,' and thereby transform consent or mere unwillingness into submission by force. These words do not transform a seducer into a rapist."

Note that there are basically two types of men in the world in rape culture: seducers and rapists, and that it's considered a skillful, benign seduction if a man gets a scared and unwilling woman to "have sex" with him. "Having sex with" a woman who was "merely unwilling" to "have sex" was not rape.

Here, note that while I strongly disagree with this definition of rape, the judge was, technically, correct with respect to how men had written the rape statute. "Mere unwillingness" and fear on the part of a woman was not legally sufficient to constitute rape. Physical force or the threat of force had to be involved for it to be considered Real Rape. Everything else was, legally, a successful seduction.

The male judge continues, of the accuser:

"She must follow the natural instinct of every proud female to resist, by more than mere words, the violation of her person by a stranger or an unwelcomed friend. She must make it plain that she regards such sexual acts as abhorrent and repugnant to her natural sense of pride. She must resist unless the defendant has objectively manifested his intent to use physical force to accomplish his purpose. The law regards rape as a crime of violence. The majority today attenuates this proposition. It declares the innocence of an at best distraught young woman. It does not demonstrate the defendant's guilt of the crime of rape...." (emphasis added).

I've been sitting here trying to parse WTF this judge means by "the natural instinct of every proud female to resist" and reckon he's saying (a) it's the duty of beauty to tame the beast, and (b) contrary to the law which says that a woman doesn't have to use physical force to defend herself from rape, he thinks a rape isn't real unless a lady defends herself using "more than mere words." And, if she doesn't do so, she's not proud or natural. At best, she's "distraught" and at worst, I think we can fill in the blanks here, she's a slut who is having morning-after regrets.

He continues:

"Here we have a full grown married woman who meets the defendant in a bar under friendly circumstances. They drink and talk together. She agrees to give him a ride home in her car. When they arrive at his house, located in an area with which she was unfamiliar but which was certainly not isolated, he invites her to come up to his apartment and she refuses. According to her testimony he takes her keys, walks around to her side of the car, and says 'Now will you come up?' She answers, 'yes.' The majority suggests that 'from her testimony the jury could have reasonably concluded that the taking of her keys was intended by Rusk to immobilize her alone, late at night, in a neighborhood with which she was unfamiliar....' But on what facts does the majority so conclude? There is no evidence descriptive of the tone of his voice; her testimony indicates only the bare statement quoted above." (emphasis added)

On what facts does the majority so conclude? That he said "Now will you come up?" indicates that he had asked her, previously, to come up to his apartment, that she had refused, and that she had only agreed once he took her keys.

"How can the majority extract from this conduct a threat reasonably calculated to create a fear of imminent bodily harm? There was no weapon, no threat to inflict physical injury."

Here, the judge evidences an unfamiliarity with the phenomenon of how girls and women are often culturally trained "to delegate our personal safety to the men in our lives." The myth of female physical incompetence sometimes becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that reinforces the idea that women are inherently incapable of defending ourselves against men, who will stop at nothing to, er... "seduce" us. Even if a man doesn't have a weapon, his presence alone can imply a physical threat to many women.

Hey, I don't make the rules. IBTP.

Anyway, we learn that there are, actually, more relevant facts to this story. The male judge continues:

"She also testified that she was afraid of 'the way he looked,' and afraid of his statement, 'come on up, come on up.' But what can the majority conclude from this statement coupled with a 'look' that remained undescribed? There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that this was anything other than a pattern of conduct consistent with the ordinary seduction of a female acquaintance who at first suggests her disinclination."

Taking a woman's keys and pestering her for sex is just the ordinary seduction of a lady? Keep reading. The male judge informs of us some more Don Juan tactics:

"After reaching the room she described what occurred as follows:

I was still begging him to please let, you know, let me leave. I said, 'you can get a lot of other girls down there, for what you want,' and he just kept saying, 'no,' and then I was really scared, because I can't describe, you know, what was said. It was more the look in his eyes; and I said, at that point I didn't know what to say; and I said, 'If I do what you want, will you let me go without killing me?' Because I didn't know, at that point, what he was going to do; and I started to cry; and when I did, he put his hands on my throat and started lightly to choke me; and I said 'If I do what you want, will you let me go?' And he said, yes, and at that time. I proceeded to do what he wanted me to."

Well, the male judge notes, the rapist was only choking her "lightly":

"She then testified that she started to cry and he 'started lightly to choke' her, whatever that means. Obviously, the choking was not of any persuasive significance. During this "choking" she was able to talk. She said 'If I do what you want will you let me go?' It was at this point that the defendant said yes."

Whatever that means? How about, maybe, he was choking her enough to get her to comply but not enough to kill her and thereby face prosecution for a Serious Crime that isn't laden with slut-shaming, victim blaming, and apologism.

The male judge ends:

"I find it incredible for the majority to conclude that on these facts, without more, a woman was forced to commit oral sex upon the defendant and then to engage in vaginal intercourse."

And I find it incredible (but not really, you know), that despite the uncontested facts in which a man (1) stole a woman's keys in a neighborhood she was unfamiliar with; (2) insisted that the woman go up to his apartment, even after she previously refused; (3) repeatedly asked her for sex after she repeatedly refused, (4) "lightly" choked her; (5) agreed to let her leave unharmed if she "had sex with" him; (6) and then "had sex with" her after she had been crying and begging to leave could viewed as anything other than rape.

So yeah, welcome to rape culture's "neutral."

Where the boundaries of women matter less than the rights men have to "seduce" women. Where, if a man doesn't think it would be reasonable to feel threatened in a situation, then it's not reasonable for anyone else to feel threatened in that situation.

I don't claim to be objective. I don't claim to be neutral. But we need to collectively understand that male judges, and men in general, are not objective or neutral either.

"There is no neutral in rape culture."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Man Food, Again

Are you kidding me with this book?

It's called: Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys

Product Description (I shit you not. Also, emphasis in original.):

"Civilize the wild beasts in your life, one meal at a time."

From Publisher's Weekly:

"Television host and Martha Stewart Living's Executive Food Director, Quinn forays into the tricky world of feeding men with this colorful volume, awash in Stewart's clean, classy and crowd-pleasing aesthetic. Though the emphasis is on men, Quinn's instructions keep the whole family in mind, especially the woman doing the cooking..."

One helpful tip: "Never be caught without bacon"


Just, in general, what is so especially tricky about "feeding" men as opposed to "feeding" women? Do these purported differences really necessitate a special book devoted to the topic? Can't "the woman doing the cooking" just pretty much fix herself a salad and buy the wildebeasts' food in bulk from, like, Petco?

Taking a peek inside, I read the introduction, barfed, made a few farting noises, and then knew ya'll would want to see it:

"Men eat differently from women- they eat more, they eat constantly, and they eat passionately. They ransack a packed refrigerator and scrounge crumbs from an empty one. They eat standing in front of the fridge, and they eat with their fingers. They always make a mess and never notice."

So, I do a lot of those things too as do, I suspect, many other women. Especially my lovely girlfriend, whose crumbs I am constantly wiping up. Because I'm the lady. But she cooks too. And we both like food. But we're both women. Are men and boys are sneaking into our house, raiding our fridge, and leaving crumby messes on our countertops? SO confusing. (OMG, marketing opp. I can see it already: The Hunger: Satiating the Lesbian in Your Life)

On a serious note, we see here how the gender binary is perpetuated for marketing purposes in that gross essentialist Men Are From Mars manner. Because men and women are so very different, they apparently have vastly different feeding habits. Therefore, a book needs to be written, and then bought, on how women can feed the men in their lives.

Notice, too, how being passionate about eating is presented as being somewhat endearing when it's men and boys doing the eating. As in, ho ho ho boys will be boys, what with all their amazing bottomless pits of stomachs! as though being really hungry sometimes is a "male" thing instead of a human thing. This framing is similar to how authenticity in male appearance is sometimes heralded as Real Manhood while authenticity in female appearance is framed as "masculine" and "un-feminine."

I mean, can you even imagine a book existing on how men can feed the voraciously hungry women and girls in their lives? Hunger in women is unbecoming. It is manly. And most importantly, a book giving girls and women the entitlement to feel okay and natural for loving food would put a real damper on the market telling us not to.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On Men Opting Out Of Competition

In February, Rachel Hale became the first girl to win a Vermont state championship in wrestling. 6,000 girls wrestle across the country, most of them competing against boys.

Hale's win came after a boy in Iowa refused to wrestle his female competitor in the state tournament, saying:

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa."

What is most frustrating to me about this case are the gender narratives that put both girls and boys in a no-win situation when they compete against one another. First, there is the socially-conservative-perpetuated narrative that athletics, especially a "combat" one like wrestling, are the domain of boys, taking it as a given that boys are naturally more adept at and interested in such things. (See also, basically everything Phyllis Schlafly writes).

Girls, the "opposite" of boys, are thus framed as less competent and less fit for the demanding activities of sports. So, even though a girl wins a tournament in one state, it can be a self-evident truth to a boy in another state that it's not "appropriate" for a boy to engage a girl in "combat"-like sporty stuff.

At the same time, had the boy wrestled and lost he would have been subject to ridicule for being beaten by a girl. Had he wrestled and won, some would accuse him of bullying a girl. Instead of just competing like two human beings, we see how notions of gender propriety impede kids' ability to treat one another like individuals.

Hugo Schwyzer frames this case as being illustrative of "the longing of too many young men for all-male spaces, in which they don't have to compete with women as equals." Indeed, there was a certain, "he's not even going to give the girl wrestler a chance to beat him?" flavor to the boy wrestler's oh-so-chivalrous refusal to compete against a girl. It reaked of cowardice, although I blame the system more than the boy for that.

Schwyzer continues, by speaking more broadly of Kay Hymnowitz's atrocious article arguing that women's gains have robbed men of the chance to be men:

"Contrary to what Hymowitz argues, male responsibility does not require female vulnerability to thrive. The problem, rather, is a culturally constructed one: men have been raised to believe that many of the things truly worth doing are those that women cannot do (or more accurately, were not allowed to partake in). Despite his claims about his faith, Joel Northrup didn't forfeit his match because of anything in scripture forbidding boys and girls from wrestling (there isn't). He didn't forfeit because of chivalry. He didn't even forfeit because of fear of losing to a girl. He did so because the very presence of a female competitor robbed the sport of its power."

Not only that, but when women can do the things that men do, the self-evident truth that men are the best at all things worth doing is challenged. I reckon that's scary too.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fun Fact of the Day

Technically, it is illegal to be anonymously and intentionally annoying on internet.

The Communications Decency Act, which states in relevant part that anyone who communicates across state lines and who:

"makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications.... shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Well, it's a good thing none of that ever happens.

Consider this an open thread. You know, as long as nobody's annoying. Whatever that means.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sally Kern Takes Christian Persecution Complex Up a Notch

[TW: Gratuitous reference to violence]

This book is apparently going to be a real thing in the real world.

In case you don't feel like clicking over, it's called The Stoning of Sally Kern: The liberal attack on Christian conservatism- and why we must take a stand

Gah, I know, right?

In it, we're to learn how Kern's receipt of criticism for saying homosexuality is "deadly" and "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam" is indistinguishable from a brutal form of execution by torture.

Fun fact #1: Stoning is a form of torture that, ironically, parts of Sally Kern's holy book mandates and condones for certain sexual offenses.

Fun fact #2: In 2010, after making the above statement about homosexuality, Kern was re-elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. I guess her stoning wasn't as final as it is for other victims of the practice.

(Spoiler alert: She wasn't really stoned.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mere Tolerance

Over at Religion Dispatches, Cody J. Sanders, a Baptist minister and PhD student in Pastoral Theology and Counseling, explores the issue of tolerance.

What I appreciate about this piece is that he questions the notion that tolerance (as opposed to affirmation) is a benign alternative, compared to Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, for Christians to deal with homosexuality and gay people. He writes:

"Focus on the Family has even launched a project called True Tolerance to address sexuality (i.e. 'homosexual advocacy') and bullying (i.e. 'deceptive' anti-bullying initiatives) in schools.

All of this talk about 'tolerance' scares me. More than Westboro’s vitriolic speech that is obviously hateful (e.g. signs that read 'God Hates Fags'), these advocates for tolerance toward LGBT persons have me more than a bit concerned.

They concern me because people generally like this talk about tolerance—a lot. Practicing tolerance seems like a virtuous striving in our quest to 'get along.' But talk about 'tolerance' sounds different based on one’s position in the conversation. The talk takes on particular meaning depending on whether one is doing the tolerating or being tolerated. To queer ears, tolerance doesn’t seem like such a gift.

What exactly does it mean to be tolerated? Those who were once persecuted are later tolerated. Those who were once treated with violence are now allowed to exist in an atmosphere of “beneficent” tolerance. Tolerance says, 'You shouldn’t be here, but I’ll allow you to exist.' We commit ourselves to overlooking the offense, the annoyance, the violation to our senses caused by the things and people we merely tolerate. Indeed, toleration is no gift to the tolerated."

I am reminded of a conversation my partner had with one of her relatives. It went like this.

Partner: Pastor Bob thinks homosexuality is wrong. That hurts my feelings.

Relative: But Bob isn't mean to you or anything. So, just as he tolerates you, you have to tolerate him and his religious beliefs.

Partner: [stares, blankly].

When benign-sounding phrases like "tolerance" are used against us to perpetuate oppression, it can feel very confusing. This false moral equation continually obfuscates how religious organizations have the institutional power and moral capital to declare queer lives and lifestyles undignified and have that be accepted as Absolute Truth, a power that most queer individuals do not possess. Sanders continues:

"...[T]here are various levels of nuance to the message that LGBT people are unacceptable to God, and these often pass under the guise of tolerance. One of the most pervasive is the notion of 'welcoming but not affirming.' It is the pinnacle of the soul-destroying practice of theologized tolerance that says, 'You are welcome to exist among us, but we cannot affirm the goodness, value, or worth of your life(style).' This is a particularly popular discourse among 'moderates' who rest proud that they aren’t like Westboro and for whom tolerance seems virtuous."

This is precisely why I actually prefer the rantings of the Phelps clan to some of the less extreme opponents of homosexuality and LGBT rights. Although Phelps, like more moderate anti-gays, oppose homosexuality with the approval of their own consciences, at least most reasonable people accept the proposition that there's something abhorrent about proclaiming "God Hates Fags." The same cannot be said about those for whom tolerance means "I won't call you a fag, but you're still inferior to heterosexuals," and that makes the so-called civil anti-gays more dangerous.

As admirable as it may be that some anti-gays think Phelps is abhorrent, I'm not sure they deserve cookies for mere toleration of queer existences.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Good Men Project Presents MRAs. Part II

[See also, Part I, and commenting guidelines at the end of this post]

Because of interactions like those that I referred to yesterday, and the resounding silence of MRAs who might disagree with some of the more vocal, aggresive adherents of the movement, the GMP exploration of the MRA movement left me with the impression that the movement displays a lack of discipline, rage, entitlement to act out that rage, misogyny, misandry, and sloppiness, at least when they are given a non-MRA forum to present their case. I sincerely hope these characteristics are growing pains and that MRAs, many of whom seem to be in real pain, find more productive and non-aggressive ways of dealing with their rage, resentment, and hurt.

For now, as David Futrelle observes, the movement doesn't seem to be actively trying to implement specific measures that would help their cause:

"At its heart, men’s rights activism doesn’t really seem to be about activism at all. What the movement has turned into is a strange parody of 'victim feminism,' an endless search for proof that men (despite earning more than women, heading up the overwhelming majority of companies and governments in the world, getting all the best movie roles, never having to wear heels, and so on and so on and so on) are in fact second-class citizens."

Yes. My interactions with MRAs in the past have sometimes gone like:

MRA: Men are raped too.
Me: Yes, I know. That sucks.
MRA: [Stares, waiting for me to open a rape crisis center for men]

So, on that point, I would agree that some of the issues raised by MRAs are indeed legitimate. Further, unlike the MRAs who rarely concede that feminists sometimes raise legit points too, I will continue seeing these "men's issues" as legitimate no matter how hateful MRAs are (although I'd likely disagree with them about causes and solutions).

Yet, some of their claims at GMP were patently untrue and also... strange. For instance, one of the items on the "Top Ten" MRA Issues piece was:

“There is no male pill, and there is no way to avoid fatherhood at will.”

To this, I responded:

"Yes there is. A man can choose not to engage in sexual intercourse with a woman. It’s a surefire way to avoid fatherhood."

I suspected that what this particular MRA really wanted was a surefire way for men to have sex with women and not have to take responsibility for a resulting child.
And natch, the MRAs were quick to confirm:

"Men have a right to have sex without being saddled with children or the choices of others if they so wish."

They do? That's, like, a human right? I'm all for a male pill, but what else does it tangibly mean for a man to "have a right to have sex" with a woman without "being saddled" with children? Well, MRA "Denis" put forth his big idea:

"I like the idea of a procreation contract. Sexual activity should not be considered as consent for procreation."

So, we've gone from a legitimate concern about the need for male birth control to the creation of a special legal falsehood for men who engage in potentially-procreative sex. As an attorney who lives in the world of contracts, I wonder what a presumption against consent to procreate would specifically look like. If we say that sexual activity is not considered consent for procreation, does that mean if a man who has sex with a woman without explicitly consenting to procreate with her, then we pretend, for legal purposes, that he has not actually procreated with her even if in fact he actually has procreated with her?

Does that mean that if a woman doesn't consent to procreate with a man she has sex with, we pretend that she has not actually procreated with him? Oh. Right. Unlike a man, a woman can't just pretend a fetus away.

I mean, it's almost like Denis doesn't know that women's reproductive rights are limited in the US (and much of the world), or understand how babies are made, or understand that women don't always get pregnant on purpose, or that sometimes accidental pregnancies happen. So, I suspect his "idea of a procreation contract" has something to do with a belief that women often "sabotage" birth control.

So, specifically, I wonder- if a man and a woman were to agree beforehand in a "procreation contract" that they would have sex but not procreate, who would assume responsibility for any accidentally-resulting child? Would the woman be legally required to have an abortion? Would she have to prove that she didn't, like, poke holes in the condom? If she chose not to have an abortion, would she then assume sole legal and financial responsibility for the child? Would the child be sent to an orphanage?

What if a man and woman signed a contract agreeing to procreate but, during the pregnancy, she developed a condition that threatened her health or life? And, more importantly, if some men are so suspicious and contemptuous of women, why do they have sex with women?

I mean, in this conversation, MRAs talked a lot about men's "right" to have sex with women because of men's "biological urges." As though, maybe, women are penis receptacles that men apparently have a right to have orgasms in without consequence. Because of boners.

And furthermore, these boners make "abstinence" not a fair feminist suggestion for men who want to fuck without procreative consequence.

My point here is that an actual procreation contract would have to address a myriad of hypothetical situations that are far more complicated than "the idea of a procreation contract." And wit this post, I wonder if I've thought about Denis' "idea of a procreation contract" more than Denis has.

To sum up my experience at GMP, I was left thinking that some MRAs have turned their movement into a mirror image of the most caricatured radical feminism they can think of, and that they are extremely dedicated to their cause. I have no idea what their numbers are, but I do question how critically, fairly, or thoroughly such MRAs have addressed, or are capable of addressing, the issues they raise. Even granting them that anger is addictive and lazy to indulge in, I'm not sure shouting their speech through a bullhorn does the plight of men many favors.

[Commenting note: This piece is my opinion based upon what I observed at GMP, and was not intended to misrepresent or refer to all MRAs. Unless you have proof of clairvoyancy, don't question my intent or make accusations of bad faith on my part. Any MRAs who wish to comment on this article are welcome to make civil arguments supported by evidence. At GMP, I saw a lot of reactive MRA comments about critical articles supposedly being "man-hating" or "hit pieces," but little supporting argumentation was provided as to how particular articles were, specifically, man-hating or erroneous. Comments like, "Typical misandrist propaganda" without further explanation or examples are intellectually insufficient and I encourage you to be more thorough. Cite examples and make arguments, not mere conclusions.

Feminists: These guys already believe themselves to be victimized at the hands of women/feminists/society, so I also request that everyone focus criticism on their arguments, rather than calling them douchebags, etc.]

Monday, March 14, 2011

Good Men Project Presents MRAs. Part I

[TW: Misogyny; Threats; Hate speech; See also- commenting guidelines at end of piece]

The somewhat pro-feminist Good Men Project (GMP) recently ran a series of articles about the Men's Rights Activist/Advocate (MRA) movement, featuring articles written from varying points of view.

If you don't want to read a post about MRAs, allow me to synthesize the competing arguments:

Feminism: The cause of and solution to all of life's problems

But seriously, first off, I know the MRA movement is not monolithic (although I'm still not entirely sure what a self-described "predatory tranny MRA subgroup" is- it seems to have something to do with being a trans* woman who hates cis women and/or feminists?). Secondly, I read all of the associated GMP articles and waded into the comment threads following the articles. Accordingly, today's post and tomorrow's are impressions perhaps more reflective of the participants in the articles and comments than of all MRAs. No matter how many "angry men" some of the participants claimed to be speaking for, I didn't see statistics or numbers reflecting how many men or MRAs they are actually speaking for or are involved in this movement.

Thirdly, many of the MRAs (and the few Special Snowflake Women who aren't bitches like the rest of us) participating in the, um, conversations didn't impress me much. This is not man-hating or anti-MRA to say, it's just my observation of the dialogue. As I read, the more reasonable MRA commenters were largely overshadowed by a handful whose contributions were frequent, reactionary, abusive, and uninspired (and armed with seemingly ready-made throw-noodles-at-the-wall lists to post into comment threads, that perhaps serve as all-purpose comments for a variety of different internet forums).

For instance, many MRA commenters bristled at what they saw as unfair characterizations of MRAs, yet largely presented feminism as a monolithic man-hating movement comprised of their intellectual inferiors. Continuing the theme that apparently all things in life must be centered around men, some are convinced that feminists "routinely" call for and support the extermination and/or castration of men.

Like, I suspect, most feminists, I would be appalled if this were true. Yet, some men believe this of feminism with absolute certainty, a certainty that seems to serve as cover for statements like this, from Paul Elam, a leader of the MRA movement:

"...[O]ur current gender zeitgeist is one that has promoted and enabled such a degree of female narcissism and entitlement that it has now produced two generations of women that are for the most part, shallow, self-serving wastes of human existence—parasites—semi-human black holes that suck resources and goodwill out of men and squander them on the mindless pursuit of vanity."

Apparently women, like feminists, are monolithic things. Elam's statement went entirely unchallenged by MRAs in the midst of them simultaneously making tone arguments against feminists.

Now, tone arguments are a strange thing with MRAs. Mostly because I think that if a feminist rendered a polite, "You know, it makes me feel really unsafe as a woman when Paul Elam calls us parasites," it would elicit MRA mocking, ridicule, and endless rounds of "what's good for the goose blah blah fart fart." Really, I'm not sure a feminist can win with many of these guys no matter what tack we take.

So, I'm not sure I agree with the Good Men Project giving Elam's rhetoric a platform, as doing so implies that the notion that two generations of women "for the most part" are useless parasites is a legitimate other side to the notion that women "for the most part" are not. Yet, add to that speech the amateurish quality of the pro-MRA articles, like this purported "Top 10 Issues" of the MRA movement (containing entirely unsupported statements like "While women seldom go unpunished in cases of abuse, their sentencing is often nowhere near as severe as men’s." Um, okay, I guess we'll all just take his word on that?), and I'm not sure the participating MRAs utilized the forum to present that great of a PR campaign.

See also this piece, where the author explains why MRAs "hate" feminists: "In a nutshell, because nearly everything they say is a lie....MRAs reject the very notion that 'men oppressed women.' It didn’t happen. Ever." Again with the feminists being monolithic, and monolithically bad and paranoid, natch. Again with the largely unchallenged hate speech (notice this MRA fellow doesn't deny that he hates feminists. His hatred seems to be a given).

Yet rather than recognizing the rhetorical flaws about making such broad, unsupported statements in attempted persuasive pieces, some MRAs were quick to project stupidity onto feminists. For instance, one fellow half-assedly edjumacated me on who Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin, and Catherine MacKinnon were because he "suspect[ed]" I am "one of those feminists who doesn't actually know anything about the history of feminism."

Lulz. Inquiring minds actually want to know how many MRAs have read books by any of these ladies. I mean, we know they can cherry-pick things these feminists did, and in some cases did not, say. But, am I confident that the vast majority of MRAs have read, say, Are Woman Human? or The Church and the Second Sex? Nah. Not so much.

Then, when I suggested in the comments that the MRA articles would have been stronger had they included citations supporting their claims, several MRAs instructed me on how to use The Google and said I should find references to support the MRA author's claims myself. You know, do the author's work for him because Boy Genius can't be bothered to include hyperlinks himself.


I suppose I'm just used to my profession where a judge would laugh such instruction out of a goddamn courtroom. I can see it now, "Your Honor, my client's friend totally left him $1 million in his will. We don't actually have the will, but it's in the attic somewhere if you wanna look for it."

Yet... even on internet, that sort of rhetorical laziness isn't going to convince many non-MRAs, especially if the point of, say, a Top Ten article is to present the top MRA issues to those who aren't familiar with the movement. If these issue are the Big Deals the MRAs claim them to be, one would think they'd want to make the strongest case possible to convince others to hop aboard. Many MRAs didn't recognize this incompetence, however, instead echoing "Good piece, man" in the comments, oblivious to how others were perceiving it and pissed that feminists wouldn't immediately jump on the MRA bandwagon.

Now, like I said, I have no idea how representative the GMP participants are of the MRA movement in general. From what I saw, the more civil ones did not regularly take it upon themselves to confront the incompetent, uncivil, violent, and/or misogynistic rhetoric of their more vocal comrades. I didn't see one MRA in the comment threads, for instance, take issue with Paul Elam's statement. And, when I noted the tendency toward violent speech in MRA commentary, a frequent MRA commenter threatened:

"In point of fact, I continually warn people that if these issues are not MEANINGFULLY addressed, and soon, there will be a LOT of violence (see: Middle East) that we MRAs won’t be able to stop.

And frankly, if it comes to that, society (and all the women in it along with the men) flat out DESERVES whatever is coming.

Your hubris as a movement is causing a lot of men to be angry. You all vastly underestimate both the anger, and the ubiquitous nature of this anger."

In other words, if men don't get their way about all this, they'll be unable to control their rage and will start inflicting mass amounts of violence upon people. (Remember, honey + vinegar, ladies!)

I'm not sure a feminist could write a more insulting caricature of men than this MRA did himself. Other MRAs didn't challenge this statement, either. Yet, as a feminist, I expect better from men, mostly because I question the notion that they're wildebeasts who are incapable of controlling rage and are entitled to engage in a "LOT" of violence because of that rage. It is misandrists who view rage as a uniquely male problem, rather than the human problem that it is.

As someone who had an anger management problem in the past that would make Bobby Knight blush (I was not, um, very forgiving of referees who made mistakes), I am familiar with rage. I think, in general, many people underestimate female anger, because we are conditioned to suppress it. I also know that the threshold of what would get me reprimanded in, say, a basketball game was much lower than for a male player. So yeah, I resent the MRA notion that men, in a purported civil society, get some special entitlement to make threats about how if they don't get their way they're going to Tear Shit Up. Neither do I agree with them that male anger is somehow more "ubiquitous" or powerful or real than female anger.

Working through anger in non-aggressive ways can be done, I believe, for most people no matter their sex. Some MRAs seem to doubt this, threatening American women with a coming dystopian "Middle-East"-like future if we don't give in to the demands they can't even be bothered to provide support for.

Is the MRA movement really doing itself a favor with this sort of rhetoric? I think not. But we'll continue tomorrow.

[Commenting note: This piece is my opinion based upon what I observed at GMP, and was not intended to misrepresent or refer to all MRAs. Unless you have proof of clairvoyancy, don't question my intent or make accusations of bad faith on my part. Any MRAs who wish to comment on this article are welcome to make civil arguments supported by evidence. At GMP, I saw a lot of reactive MRA comments about critical articles supposedly being "man-hating" or "hit pieces," but little supporting argumentation was provided as to how particular articles were, specifically, man-hating or erroneous. Comments like, "Typical misandrist propaganda" without further explanation or examples are intellectually insufficient and I encourage you to be more thorough. Cite examples and make arguments, not mere conclusions.

Feminists: These guys already believe themselves to be victimized at the hands of women/feminists/society, so I also request that everyone focus criticism on their arguments, rather than calling them douchebags, etc.]

Friday, March 11, 2011

Marriage Debate Fail

Some more low-hanging fruit (and I don't like to even send traffic toward this "marriage defense" blog so for reals think twice about clicking), but let's address one of my fave insular comments that those who only pay attention to "their side" of the so-called homosexualist culture wars. I see this uttered with some frequency by some who oppose equality for LGBT people:

"If supporters of neutering marriage have a rational argument to make they should make it. Instead, they spend their time trying to shout down, shut up, and intimidate those who disagree with them."

In that particular thread, the other "marriage defense" commenter, a guy who once admitted that he has no interest in dialogue with those who disagree him, responded by being all, totes, I know. "They" this. "They" that. They, they they.

They who? All gay people? All "homofascists"? All equality advocates?

With insularity, comes the lazy view that "the other side" is basically an amorphous monolithic blob comprised of individuals who lack individuality, nuance, and differing opinions. Unlike those on one's own side, of course, each of whom is a sparkling snowflake of specialness.

So, like, in general, if all a "marriage defender" hears from equality advocates is shouting, the "marriage defender" is not listening hard enough. Or, like at all.


My list of marriage equality resources and arguments is a little outdated now, but it's a good 101 for where some of us are coming from. It's at least a good starting place.

PS- It must be swell having the privilege to just not pay attention to the arguments made by those whose rights you spend so much time denying.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Today's FYI

"My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn't leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me Sue."

-Shel Silverstein, "A Boy Named Sue."

A law professor opines upon the legality of so-called gender-mismatched names:

"Some other countries, such as Germany and Denmark, actually require boys to be named with male names and girls with female names....

Governmental prohibition of gender mismatched names is unlikely to be constitutional [in the US]. In addition to raising issues of gender classification and inappropriate stereotyping under the Equal Protection Clause, such laws would fail to recognize the dynamic nature of naming practices by locking in certain names as permanently male or permanently female. In fact, the gender identity of particular names is fluid. Researchers have found that 'names tend to evolve from male to unisex to female.' Locking in certain names as permanently male or female is to engage in precisely the type of gender stereotyping that the Supreme Court has consistently rejected."

-Carlton FW Lawson, "Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights"

Egypt: Leaving Women Behind

I'm not an expert in gender politics in Egypt, but this is disappointing:

"Throughout the uprising, women were at the forefront of the street protests. However, they have largely kept quiet about their gender rights in a country where they have faced rampant discrimination and received little legal protection against widespread violence and sexual abuse. They were careful not to display any intention of wanting to advance one group's rights over those of another.

'We did not speak of our gender rights during these protests because it was not the right time. We spoke for the political and social rights of all Egyptians. If we were to campaign for our rights as women in parallel with the revolution's national goal, that would have been called political opportunism,' says Hala Kamal, an assistant professor at Cairo University and a member of the Women in Memory Forum.

But only days into the post-Mubarak era, many women's rights activists have begun to feel suspicious that the national umbrella they rallied under, whose slogan was democracy, equality and freedom for all Egyptians, may be leaving them out.

Their disillusionment began when no women were selected by the military council to be among the 10-member constitutional committee responsible for making constitutional revisions.

Another disheartening setback that raises questions about the future of women's rights in Egypt is the return of sexual harassment to the streets."

I find it interesting, yet not entirely surprising, that a desire to assert women's political equality might be viewed as women "wanting to advance one group's rights over those of another."

That's always a fun reversal, isn't it?

Women protested "for the politcal and social rights of all Egyptians," yet given that women remain unrepresented in government positions and sexual harassment is returning to pre-protest levels, it seems that maybe the protests weren't, actually, about the political and social rights of "all" Egyptians. Like so many other political movements that claim to be about advancing the rights of all people, perhaps this movement was, invisibly, really only about advancing the rights of some.

Another quote, from the article:

"Hiltermann, who is now the International Crisis Group's deputy programme director, says: 'It is usually the case that during a national crisis, women play a very active political and social role because everyone is on the barricade. But, when the crisis is over, women return to their original roles.'"

A revolutionary victory does not always mean a victory for women.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Anti-Feminist Quote of the Day

Via the Washington Times, some guy took the time out his day to write a letter to the editor, mansplaining*:

"It would appear that today’s feminists are greatly bothered by the looks of conservative women, who just so happen to be pro-life. It’s as if they look at Sarah Palin and her 'Mama Grizzlies' as betraying their distorted version of feminism.

I could just hear them saying, 'Aren’t they supposed to be white-haired church ladies?' and 'women who look like that are supposed to be with us.' Thank you, Mrs. Palin, Michele Bachmann, Nikki Haley, Christine O'Donnell, Michelle Malkin and Lila Rose for showing the modern feminists what true feminism is all about. It’s not all about looks, but rather about standing up for the truth and defending unborn babies, faith, family and marriage."

(But really, it's all about looks).

I mean, can you imagine, a woman writing in and posing the following as legit political discourse:

"It appears today's conservative men are greatly bothered by the looks of liberal men. So, I just wanna give a shout-out to all the liberal hunks out there. Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, and Howard Dean. Let me just say hubba-hubba, am I right?

So thank you, gents, for showing everyone what it means to be a liberal man. What it means is being hot. (And some other stuff too. Maybe. As long as you agree with us). Whatever. You guys just sit there looking pretty and leave the hard thinkin' to us ladyfolk."

I mean, really? Deep thoughts from the anti-feminists. Wahoo!

*Today's bit of anti-feminist wisdom was brought to you by FauxbjectiveCo, the fine granters of "props" to people who acquire information by means other than actually reading feminist writing who then mistake their own ignorant, uninspired thinking for objective truth.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Whose Rights?

[TW: Gender policing]

Timothy Kincaid at gay blog Box Turtle Bulletin doesn't appreciate how some in the LGBT community are going about trying to win "his" gay rights. Of a protest for marriage equality involving drag queens and led by Queer Rising in Manhattan, he writes:

"...[D]rag has nothing to do with marriage or our community’s quest for marriage equality. In fact, when it comes to marriage, the last thing we want is for those who are listening to our legitimate grievances to start thinking that gay people are just ‘men who like to parade around in women’s clothes’ or that we don’t take our own inequalities and indignities seriously.

Which is why it was really incredibly stupid and counterproductive for Queer Rising – an organization of queer activists and 'drag queen activists' – to block the intersection of Manhattan’s 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue this morning with a banner protesting marriage inequality in fright wigs and faux fur. This protest was a lot less about marriage than it was about 'look at me!'”

Now, since it is a tenent of our legal system to treat likes alike and unalikes unalike, the culture war narratives follow accordingly and breed this sort of internal intolerance and alienation. In order to win equality, LGBT people are pigeonholed into having to prove that We're Just Like Straight People (even if some of us aren't), that Our Relationships Are Just Like Heterosexual Relationships (eve if some are not), and that we therefore deserve equal rights.

So, rather than challenging the notion that there's something undignified, unserious, or undeserving-of-equality about "men who like to parade around in women's clothes," many gender-conforming queers get their knickers in a wad over the more radical members of our community who Ruin Shit For "All" Of "Us." Or, as Kincaid's title commands:

"When protesting for my rights, please try not to be incredibly stupid and counterproductive."

Now, I don't doubt that lots of gay people are just like straight people. But, lots of gay people, oh and transgender people and lesbians and and queers and bisexual people and drag queens too, are not. Many people perform gender and sexuality in different ways for many different reasons, few of which involve a "look at me" desire to be the center of attention on a Manhattan street.

So, I think herein lies a big question of what, exactly, the LGBT movement (if it can even be called that) is fighting for. I mean, what exactly are the big priorities of the Homosexual Agenda and who gets to set them?

Is the struggle primarily about marriage equality? Or, is our struggle something greater than what some cisgender gender-conforming gay men think they require for "their" liberation? Is marriage equality worth having if it means shaming members of the LGBT community in the process and mandating gender conformity at public events and protests? Is this gay "equality" worth having if we're leaving in place pervasive misogyny (and racism and biphobia and other -isms) within the LGBT community?

I'm not trying to start a blog shitstorm or writing this post just to say "look at me," but, rather, because when I read something like the following quote, as a lady, I don't feel exactly liberated. In response to a drag queen saying she wanted people to take their protest seriously, Kincaid asks:

"Serious? Really? You want morning commuters to take you serious in your purple eye-shadow and stiletto heels?"

Purple eye-shadow and stiletto heels. On a man. Like, what a woman would wear. Rather than critiquing how and why these symbols of femininity so degrade the wearer's credibility, Kincaid participates in the degradation, taking it as a given that of course purple eye-shadow and stiletto heals indicate that a person doesn't have serious things to say about equality.

Fun fact: The same day Kincaid posted this commentary, a couple of guys hanging out at his blog joked in the comments to another post about how a particular anti-equality female politician supposedly looks like "a drag queen."

A drag queen. You know, those people we can't expect people to take seriously.

See how I don't bring this stuff up just for shits and giggles? It's all related.

When men are seen as looking ridiculous, unserious, and self-absorbed in women's clothes because of the incongruity between masculinity and femininity, what does it say about women, as a class, that these accoutrements are a supposed perfect fit? Indeed, how does a BTB commenter retort to my taking issue with his sexism? By barking:

"@fannie, get over yourself"


Here we see, once again, the minimization by those with the relative privilege of sexual orientation being their only major axis of oppression of those who are oppressed based on other aspects of their identity. While such folks undoubtedly view the oppression of gay men as a Very Big Deal, and it is, some unfortunately dismiss, ignore, or minimize other people's experiences of oppression because, perhaps, they don't think it's as legit as the so-called Last Great Civil Rights Struggle.

Yet, marriage equality on the condition that we parade in our figurative and gender-conforming Sunday Best might be fine and dandy for some, but we can and should do better than turn ourselves into the American (Homosexual) Family Association just so we can get into the cool kids' marriage club. One wonders how many of "us" would be left once people are done throwing others under the bus in order to obtain "their" rights. One wonders what the new hierarchies would be and which crusty patriarchal ones would remain.

Kincaid ends by admonishing the drag queen:

"Instead, perhaps it is you who should be taking our community and our rights seriously."

With all due respect, I believe she is. If one is using a a broader definition of "our community" and "our rights," of course.

[Related- College Journalist: Flamboyant Gays to Blame For Suicides]

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Mark Cuban, Charlie Sheen In Talks"

Of course they are:

"'You've got somebody that everybody has a whole lot of interest in who's doing some interesting things, to say the least, and we always look for interesting programming by featuring interesting people doing interesting things,' Cuban said before the Mavericks' game against the Memphis Grizzlies. 'I reached out and we've had some conversations, and we're going to work on doing some things.'"

Why wouldn't one wealthy man maintain homosocial bonds with another man who displays a pattern of violence against women, for purposes of collaborating on some really interesting programming that's bound to be really interesting to everybody and make them both lots of money?

I mean, it's not like Sheen has insulted Cuban or anything, because then the deal would totally be off.

Robert Knight Gets So Serious About DOMA

[TW: Homophobia]

Reacting to the US Department of Justice's recent decision to stop defending DOMA, Robert Knight, who boasts of having helped write a first draft of the law, "takes off his gloves."

I guess he needed to take them off so he could peck out a little temper tantrum with as minimal typos as possible. It's inadvisable, after all, to just start publicly saying shit when you're all worked up. Like:

"I regard Obama's order on Feb. 23 to Attorney General Eric Holder to abandon DOMA's legal defense as lawless, reckless, arrogant and a violation of his oath of office. I think it is an impeachable offense.

I'm just warming up."

Ooh hoo hoo.


In case you didn't know, we are apparently to take it as a self-evident truth that it's A Feat of Incredible Bravery and Awesomeness whenever heterosexual Christian men stand strong and defend us against the grave harms of abortion and LGBT rights, issues that uniquely affect women and LGBT people. Naturally, these men don't view rape or murder or terrorism or war or domestic violence or any other misdeed disproportionately committed by men as rising to the same level of civilization-destroying capability that abortion and same-sex marriage do. No sir, they only "take the gloves off" when they want to figuratively beat up on women and queers.

Anyhoo, now that he's all warmed up and rarin' to go, Knight continues by citing a specious, hate-group-produced bit of propaganda, er I mean, a "shocking expose," about the Eveels Of Same-Sex Marriage (which I've addressed here). He offers this bit of evidence as proof that:

"Obama and his minions are counting on our being so shell-shocked by the trillions in debt and the spectacle of public employee union mobs that we won't notice their ongoing effort to homosexualize America."

Dun. Dun. DUN!

Srsly? He actually says "minions" (which, incidentally, always brings to my mind marching battalions of pearl onions, but I digress). I think the important thing to ask here is WTF does it even mean to "homosexualize America"? Mandatory L Word viewings in public schools and workplaces followed by competitive buttsex to the tune of Lady Gaga?

He asks:

"Why do so many Republicans, when faced with brash evil, respond with concerns about timing or procedure? Where is Reagan when you need him?"

Where's Reagan? No doubt he's in heaven, busy reminiscing about the burgeoning AIDS epidemic he ignored and joked about when he was the prez. Our white Knight continues:

"Let's get back to what presidents are supposed to do, regardless of their religious avowals. They are chief executives, and the Constitution does not empower them to dispense with laws they deem unconstitutional, as Obama has done with DOMA.

Presidents execute the laws enacted by Congress. Article II requires the president to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'"

Blahddity blah blah blah. Does Knight even know what he's saying with those words? I mean, he cites Article II, but then he pretends that it's not a reasonable interpretation of that requirement for a President to refuse to defend a law that he finds unconstitutional. That's okay though. He doesn't need a real argument, since he doesn't think who gets to be legally married is even a valid, debatable question in the first place:

"Marriage predates any known human government. It is not open to debate except where lunatics have taken over the asylum and can't see any difference between John and Mary tying the knot and John and Fred playing house."

Here we see the audacity of nope.

Not only do "marriage defenders" get to say what objectively counts as marriage for all people and cultures everywhere since the beginning of time, they get to say what topics are and are not up for debate in our political system. And, if you disagree with that version of reality, you're CrAzY! (For real, I think they added Marriage Delusion Disorder to the latest edition of the DSM).

Thus, Knight ends, predictably:
"By declaring his intention to allow radical judges to find a 'right' to homosexual 'marriage' in the U.S. Constitution, Barack Obama is pouring gasoline on a bonfire that is destroying the legal protections of marriage -- and civilization itself."


I can do metaphors too. Indeed, I'm right now reminded of a drunk dude I once saw pissing off a Mardi Gras float into the crowd under the mistaken impression that he was a hero putting out a fire.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Slippery Slopes Made Of Straw and Wet Noodles and... Innuendo.. and Yeah!

It's sloppy posts like this that make me question whether Maggie Gallagher's sincere whenever she says she's just a nice a gal who doesn't hate gay people or anything, she just doesn't think they "have the right to redefine marriage for all of us."

In a post at her National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage blog, faster than a disgruntled flight attendant can pop open brewski and slip down the evacuation slide, she asks: "After SSM: What Next? In San Fran, banning circumcision."

Dun dun DUN! This "After SSM" post is part of her asinine series about how all kinds of supposedly scary shit is supposedly related to, or a consequence of, the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Here, the implication is that a movement to ban circumcision is somehow very closely related to the marriage equality movement. She doesn't bother to connect the dots for us, natch, or to explain how exactly marriage equality advocates are pushing for this ban. Instead, she writes, merely:

"The next big idea out of San Francisco: ban circumcision. [PDF]

That's really the next big idea for liberals? No Jews allowed?'

That's it. That's her entire post. In 2004, San Francisco briefly recognized legal same-sex marriages (which were later voided). Now, a man named Lloyd Shofield is pushing to get a law banning infant circumcision on the ballot. Therefore, same-sex marriage leads to bans on circumcision and liberals are anti-Semitic.

Srsly? The conflations astound. As does her tendency to Not Give People Credit For Being Smart Enough to see through that malarkey.

I can't believe I'm actually taking her post seriously, but FWIW male circumcision is less a "liberal" big idea, than it is a big idea around the issue of bodily autonomy for people born with penises. Indeed, those from all political spectrums, libertarianism, conservatism, liberalism, feminism, men's rights activism, and anti-feminism (I know, lots of overlap in these groups), can be seen opposing the circumcision of infants.

Pigeonholing this issue as a liberal one, perhaps just because this particular law is being proposed in the liberal haven of San Francisco, is not only ridiculous, it's inaccurate. Linking it to marriage equality solely on the basis that this ban is being proposed in the same place where same-sex marriage was once legal is absurd.

Maggie Gallagher is a key player in the same-sex marriage debate who has a rather large platform. As such, she has a duty to be informed and to do better than make ignorant, tenuous implications that marriage equality advocates are anti-Jewish bigots.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Conversation With Vyckie Garrison, Part II

[Today's post is a continuation of my conversation with Vyckie Garrison, a former follower of the fundamentalist Quiverfull Movement. Part I can be read here.]

TW: This post recounts religious manipulation/abuse and domestic violence.

Fannie: As someone who has rejected Christianity (and other organized religions) for their male-centric and male supremacist views (among other things), your discussion in another interview about how patriarchal religions enshrine "the supreme importance of males" really resonated with me.

You talk about "acquired situational narcissism" and suggest that men in patriarchal cultures hold unrealistically high opinions of themselves, their ideas, and of their importance in the world. How did this notion of male supremacy serve to legitimize the abuse you experienced from men?

Vyckie: A woman who has accepted Christian patriarchy cannot claim to be abused [and have it be recognized as abuse within that movement]. It would be like the Son of God calling the Father a brute. It's simply inconceivable -- and here's why:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
-- Philippians 2:5-11 (My apologies for all the Bible quoting. Quiverfull is all about the biblical family and in order to understand the mindset, you have to be aware of these interpretations.)

Fannie: No apology necessary. It's less the Bible that I dislike, and more the way the Bible is used (ie, Gandhi: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.")

Vyckie: According to the teaching, Jesus was in every way equal to God the Father -- just as Christianity theoretically teaches that women are equal to men -- however, Jesus willingly set aside His divine qualities and humbled Himself in order to fulfill a higher calling -- the salvation of the human race. Jesus is the Quiverfull woman's example. True -- God the Father willed that Jesus suffer unspeakable torture and death -- and any thinking person would consider such a parent to be monstrously abusive -- BUT, Jesus was focused on the Eternal -- the ultimate good which would come about as a result of his submissive obedience.

Likewise, a Quiverfull woman believes that whatever she suffers at the hands of her husband will ultimately lead to her being exalted and God being glorified -- if not in this life, then in the life to come. Rather than consider her own safety, comfort and well-being, the Quiverfull woman TRUSTS that the Lord will work all things (even that which is harmful and unhealthy) together for good. In submitting to her husband's abuse, she is opening a channel for the Lord to work in his heart. The promise of eternal gratification makes it possible, even honorable, to endure all manner of temporal injury and humiliation.

By the time I walked away from the Quiverfull lifestyle, my husband's behaviors had been so completely redefined that I literally did not have the vocabulary to name his abuse. Seriously. When I went to the local domestic abuse shelter for help, I wrote three pages in my request for a restraining order -- the gal who was helping me fill out the paperwork read it and told me, "In order to get a RO, you have to actually accuse him of abuse." I had come to think of his controlling as "protection" -- his isolation of me and the children was "sheltering" -- his unrestrained yelling and badgering of the children was "correction" -- his angry tantrums were "righteous zeal" -- his beatings were "discipline" -- his verbal attacks were "speaking the truth in love" -- his hatred was "passion for God."

Fannie: Wow. In addition to trivializing abuse, when society and religions really build up men at the expense of women, I think it would be hard, for men (and women) to get a realistic sense of their own abilities and competence.

Feminist theologian Mary Daly called patriarchal cultures "Looking Glass societies," where women are "condemned by society to function as mirrors, reflecting men at twice their actual size." When you chose to shatter that mirror, how did men in your life, particularly in the QM, react?

Vyckie: The most common reaction has been to count me as "the living dead" (an actual quote). Surprisingly, it has been the women who have been most vocal in discounting my experience and demonizing me. One friend wrote something like an obituary for me -- calling my "spiritual death" the most grievous death of all.

But mostly there has been silence and avoidance. Quiverfull leaders have denied ever knowing me -- despite having published my "pro-family" articles in their books and magazines. At first, I was shocked and baffled by these reactions, but I have come to understand just how threatened my old friends and Quiverfull acquaintances must feel -- if a woman as devoted as I was could fall away from the Faith, what guarantee do they have that the same won't happen to them? Better not to think about it.

Fannie: Indeed. So, now that you have joined "the living dead," what is feminism, to you?

Vyckie: This is something which I am still processing. It's much easier to write about what I no longer believe with regard to feminism than to make a positive statement of my current understanding. A big part of the difficulty for me is this: I used to have all the answers. I had chapter and verse for every minute detail of my life -- who I am, my purpose in life, etc. -- everything was black and white, nice and simple -- no place for complications, ambiguity or nuance. And having been so absolutely positive that I knew that I knew that I knew ... it is now rather triggering for me to even make an attempt at saying, "THIS is right, good, or true."

I have been really, really wrong in the past -- and my loved ones and I are still paying the price for my zealotry. Things are much better now, yes -- but we're certainly not out of the woods as the consequences of my choices (actually for Quiverfull women, it's more a matter of choosing not to have a choice) negatively affect us still. Getting free is a process -- the troubles don't magically disappear overnight.

The good news is, now I do have the freedom to make choices -- I am learning to trust my intuition and take back my agency. Beyond that -- let's just say that I still have a long way to go and much to learn.

Fannie: It sounds like you're feeling a bittersweet aspect to uncertainty and freedom. Do you consider yourself religious/spiritual now?

Vyckie: Short answer, No.

When I first began to have doubts about God and the authority of the Bible -- I desperately scrambled to come up with something of Christianity to hold onto -- any little thing of which I could honestly say, "This I still believe." I read "Dance of the Dissident Daughter" -- but couldn't finish it. I read "The Skeptical Feminist" -- hoping to discover some female-friendly understanding of spirituality. But the more cognizant I became of just how oppressive and damaging religion has been to me as a woman, the more intense my PTSD reactions have become to any sort of religious/spiritual ideals.

The mere sight of a Bible now causes me to break out in a sweat -- Bible verses give me an instant headache. I have gone from merely disbelieving in God to honestly hating Him. I realize it's silly to hate a God whom I truthfully do not believe exists -- not claiming to be rational here -- just saying that's how it is for me now.

I have been imagining a sort of cleansing ritual -- totally in my head, but it seems like it might be rather healing for me, and I imagine other NLQ readers who, like me, feel that we've been "burned" by biblical family principles. The ritual which I imagine involves tearing out pages of the Bible which contain a particular verse which was used/twisted/etc. to trap us in the Quiverfull mindset -- crumpling the page and tossing it in a fire. I know that bible burning seems extreme -- but for those of us who have been burned and even tormented by verses -- verses which True Believers may find inspiring and even beautiful (I know that I once did) -- watching those pages go up in smoke seems like poetic justice.

Sounds angry, I know.

Fannie: It doesn't sound extreme to me. It sounds like your anger is justified and you're doing what you need to do to try to heal. I wish you well on this journey. Thank you for taking the time to compose such thoughtful responses to my questions and for sharing with us your difficult experiences.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Of Mirrors and Men

So, there was that Kay Hymnowitz "Where Have All the Good Men Gone?" article, its most notable success being that it has somehow managed to piss of both misogynists and feminists all over internet.

In the article, she argues that now that "pre-adult" ladies are "the first sex," "pre-adult" men have no motivation to grow up. What she seems to be telling us is that now that it's no longer a given for middle and upper-class women to stay home and keep house for their husbands, these women have robbed men of their role as providers and, therefore, of what it means to be a man.

I have many thoughts about this but, don't worry, I'll make this brief.

See, the very next article I read after Hymnowitz's piece was this one, about "the world's biggest family," which consists of one man, his 39 wives (who share his bed on a rotating schedule), and their 94 children. In the article, one of the wives says, of her husband:

"We stay around him as he is the most important person in the house."

This article contains a photo of the man in the forefront, with the rest of his family behind him, much smaller in the background. Clearly, he is A Man. Oh yes. He is. And that's Very Important.

Mary Daly once noted that Virginia Woolf once noted "that women are condemned by society to function as mirrors, reflecting men at twice their actual size" (or 39 times their actual size, as the case may be).

Hymnowitz's narrative suggests that this reflecting-duty is still somewhat inherent in what it means to be a woman.

Her article doesn't provide any solutions to this latest man-boy crisis (you have to buy her book for that!), but it's not too difficult to connect the dots and conclude obvious way to make men men again is to re-center men and build them back up by re-stuffing them with the stifled potential of women on the grounds that men's egos can't handle more accurate life-sized reflections of themselves.

And we better do this ASAP or else or else or else.

For, within this implication lies that trusty old Men Are Wildebeasts threat. If women aren't better at taming men and making sure we know they're Most Important, men won't be capable all by themselves of acting decently, since they're all man-children running around on pure id (and Star Wars obsessions, apparently, WTF?).

Although I am not convinced that women are now "the first sex," I will concede that in many ways, for many women, Things Have Changed from when both Daly and Woolf made their Looking Glass observation. Indeed, I reckon that what Hymnowitz sees as a problem is actually an issue of shattered glass.

I further reckon that that's not a problem at all. As we sweep away the debris, isn't it about time for us to stop defining ourselves in opposition to the "opposite sex"?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Conversation With Vyckie Garrison, Part I

[Vyckie Garrison is a former follower of the fundamentalist Quiverfull Movement, where women shun all forms of birth control and remain obedient to "God" and men. For some background on this movement and of Garrison herself, you can read this Salon article and her website, No Longer Quivering. The second half of this conversation will be posted later this week.]

Fannie: As someone who is involved in the same-sex marriage struggle, I see many similarities between the definitions of family and marriage offered to us by both the Quiverfull Movement (QM) and the "marriage defense" movement.

A key argument that "marriage defenders" put forth in the Prop 8 trial was that marriage exists to ensure children are raised by both biological parents. Organizations like the National Organization for Marriage say, for instance, that each child needs a mother and a father because men and women, being very different from one another, bring unique skills to the parenting table that same-sex couples by definition lack.

The Quiverfull Movement seems to be a real-life exaggeration of this gender essentialist thinking. Is that your experience?

Vyckie: Unlike the "traditional-family" marriage defenders who attempt to make a secular/sociological argument for their opposition to same-sex marriage, Quiverfull believers boldly proclaim the Christian belief in the spiritual purpose of the sacred husband/wife union -- that is, to be a living reflection of the very nature of God. The Genesis creation story states that God created male & female in His image -- and that Divine image is incomplete, distorted and perverted when two men or two women presume to redefine marriage in their own image rather than that which is revealed by God in His infinite wisdom for our benefit. According to the Quiverfull understanding of the Bible, gay marriage is not only bad for children -- it is a defilement -- a blasphemy against the very nature of God.

Now this is not to say necessarily that when it comes to the marriage covenant, Quiverfull believers care much about the female characteristics of God -- the emphasis is more on the idea that in marriage, women represent the subordinate, submissive, obedient role of Jesus Christ in relation to God the Father.

In other words, marriage is to be a picture of the hierarchical nature of the Godhead -- with men dominating and women willingly submitting always. If you have a woman acting of her own accord and apart from the authority of a man, or if you have a man abdicating his authority, forsaking his God-ordained position of leadership -- then you have perversion and chaos reigns as doors are left wide open for demonic attack on families. (This is not an exaggeration -- fundamentalist Christians really do believe that Satan controls and destroys "ungodly" marriages.)

Fannie: Gah. It seems like rather than letting people be individuals with their own goals, desires, and characteristics, both the anti-SSM movement and Quiverfull movement strive to limit human behavior by telling us that there are correct, natural, and "god-given" ways to be male and female.

In the QM, what was your role as a woman? Did you ever feel as though in fulfilling that role you were "acting," so to speak? Did trying to be a good Christian woman resonate with who you thought you were?

Vyckie: I never for a minute believed that women are essentially inferior to men -- just different. And the difference was -- as a woman, I had a womb.....I experienced the miracle of life in my womb and I had the privilege of loving and nurturing my newborn babes at my breast. I felt sorry for my husband because he could never know such intimacy and connection with another human being as I experienced with my babies.

It's true that he also got to have children with very little inconvenience to himself and without putting his own life at risk -- but I was so caught up in the Quiverfull head trip that life-threatening pregnancies, gestational diabetes, toxemia, polyhydramnios, c-section deliveries, and partial-uterine rupture seemed a small price to pay for the privilege of bringing souls into existence -- souls which would glorify God and live with Him forever. That's an extremely heady purpose and mission in life -- and it's what motivates Quiverfull women to welcome as many pregnancies as possible no matter the cost to their personal well-being.

Admittedly, I always felt like I was not cut out to be a mother....[but] Quiverfull radically changed my way of thinking in regards to motherhood. I was mesmerized by the ideal of Children as Blessings rather than burdens. Knowing that my womb was God's gift -- not a curse, not an affliction or liability -- and having the assurance, the promise from the Psalms and Proverbs that the Lord's blessing of children is always accompanied by His guidance and wisdom for "training them up in the way they should go" -- I actually got inspired and excited at the prospect of bearing and raising "Blessed Arrows" for the Lord's Army. It was a sacred calling -- and there was absolutely nothing more significant and noble that I could do with my gifts and talents.

Quiverfull also provided a blueprint for my marriage -- a sure-fire plan for success in that most important human relationship. I learned that, as a woman, I was by nature more susceptible to deception (like Eve) and also inclined to dominate and usurp rightful authority (like Jezebel) -- and the only protection I had against the pitfalls of my female nature was to be in right relationship with God (submitted to His will -- "though He slay me" a la Job 13:15) and with my husband -- that is, to be his "help meet" -- working in submission to my husband to accomplish the vision which God gave him for our family.

I am a natural born leader -- and that was a real problem considering that the Bible told me it is the man's role to lead and my place to respond to my husband's leadership. Never mind that my husband was seriously lacking in leadership skills. It seemed "natural" for me to take the wheel and steer our family on a sensible path which capitalized on our strengths and compensated for our weaknesses -- BUT, "there is a way which seems right to a man, but the ends thereof lead to death (Proverbs 14:12). So I couldn't do it -- instead, I had to submit and he had to lead.

The Quiverfull worldview taught me not to trust my natural instincts, inclinations and common sense. A woman's intuition/internal compass is her greatest asset -- but as a devoted female follower of God, I learned that my heart was deceitful and desperately wicked, I learned that my thoughts were continually inclined toward wickedness, I learned that I was particularly susceptible to Satan's lies, I learned that I was selfish and left to my own devices, I would only and always act in my own perverse and power-hungry interests, I learned that my very best efforts to do good were like filthy rags (a woman's menstrual cloths, which is apparently the ickiest thing God could think of as a comparison for worthless and vile deeds).

In short, I was in desperate need of salvation -- and I thanked Jesus daily for His selfless sacrifice on my behalf. Jesus became my role model, which meant that the new Me, the saved and sanctified Me, lived to serve others and to sacrifice myself for the benefit of everyone except Me. For Quiverfull women, the martyr mentality is central. There is NO thought for self-preservation. So even if someone could have convinced me that having six babies in eleven years was killing me, or that indiscriminately submitting to my husband's every whim was abusive -- I'd have said, "Maybe true, but it's not all about Me." Me, myself, and I did not figure into the equation -- it was all about serving God by serving others -- and if it killed me in the process, well then, I was in good company because Jesus was nailed to a cross and I should not expect anything better as His devoted follower.

Fannie: For some of us who haven't lived in such extreme communities, it can be difficult to see why women are complicit in such attitudes and are anti-feminist. In Andrea Dworkin's Right-Wing Women, she posits that some women are anti-feminist, primarily, because rightwing religion and politics exploit the fear of male violence, which they frame as "unpredictable and uncontrollable." Traditional marriage and religion, she says, "promises to put enforceable restraints on male aggression." Dworkin also argues that anti-feminist women do not believe that they can survive independently of men, on their own non-sexual terms.

Having previously been an anti-feminist woman, does your experience reflect any of these fears? What motivated your anti-feminist opinions?

Vyckie: In the initial days following the publication of Kathryn Joyce’s “All God’s Children” on, No Longer Quivering received a tremendous response of supportive feedback and posts around the blogosphere heralding “two brave women.”... At the time of the nomination, my escape from Quiverfull was still so fresh and my comprehension of what I was doing so naive, I asked my friend, Laura (another Quiverfull walkaway who started the blog with me), “Are we feminists?” To which Laura hesitantly responded, “I guess so.”

Feminism used to be a dirty word to me. I followed all the anti-feminist groups such as Concerned Women for America, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, Ladies Against Feminism, etc. -- and from those sources, I learned that a feminist is a woman who rejects God's design and purpose for her life, preferring instead to embrace the curse of barrenness, personal power and autonomy (not a good thing to the fundamentalist way of thinking), perversion and a love of death as ultimate values because otherwise, she would have to submit to God and His divinely-appointed male authorities. I preferred to think of myself as "feminine" -- the distinction being (in my mind) that I embraced that which made me female (my womb), while feminists hate men, envy men, and ironically want to become just like men (that is, free of the burden of childbearing) in order to prove that they are better than men.

And yes -- deep down, I was terrified of men. I almost wrote here that I harbored an irrational fear of men, but considering my upbringing and the fact that I had never personally known a decent, kind, honorable man -- I'd say my fears were reality-based and well-founded. Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, argues that the radical Christian Right is built on despair -- much as I wanted to deny this claim, I had to admit that in my own life, fear and despair were at the core of my desire to know God and His will for me as a woman. I believed that my Creator loved me and knew what was good for me -- that my best chance for protection and success in this big, scary world was to find safety in "The Hiding Place" (think Corrie ten Boom) -- i.e. right smack dab in the center of His will.

The promise of Christian patriarchy is that you will have a husband who loves his wife "as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her." In other words, through humble submission to the husband's God-ordained spiritual authority, the Lord will transform an otherwise inept man into a servant-leader who is very much like Jesus in his self-sacrificial love for his family....

Sadly, the way it works out in this practice of Patriarchy -- it is the wife and children who end up doing all the Jesus-like self-sacrificing … to the point of self-abnegation and burn-out.

One thing that the spectacular failure of my Quiverfull life has taught me is that Utopian idealism is a set-up for disappointment. What I’ve learned is that all of life is a gamble -- there are no guarantees, no sure-fire formula for the good life. Following the divinely-sanctioned "traditional marriage" model which we found in the Bible did not protect our family from abuse, disintegration and divorce -- and neither did the myriad other ideals in which we invested every ounce of our time and energy until we were utterly exhausted, crushed, and devoid of all pleasure in life.

These days, I haven’t gone quite to the opposite extreme from formula to fatalism -- but I have come to what I believe is a more realistic approach -- and that is to ask, What is possible? What is reasonable? And, most importantly ~ what is sustainable over the long haul?

During the time that I was caught up on in the Quiverfull worldview, I was also the mother of five daughters. Toward the end, I was seriously questioning the value of the strict gender distinctions and limited roles for women and girls which we had accepted and lived out in our daily lives. I was beginning to feel that my daughters and I were being ripped off.

[Stay tuned for the rest of this conversation, which will be posted later this week.]