Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Big Mistake. Huge.

[TW: Homophobia]

The manager of a New Jersey bridal shop reportedly refused to sell a wedding dress to a customer after learning that the customer was marrying another woman. According to the article, the manager, Donna, refused to sell the dress because she said the wedding was "illegal" and she didn't want to take part in an "illegal action."


Now, if we give Donna the benefit of the doubt here and assume that her Grave Concern about aiding and abetting criminal behavior was sincere, one wonders what she thought might happen to her if she sold the dress to a woman about to get same-sex married.

Like, was she scared she would be arrested and imprisoned for being a co-conspirator to the "crime" of same-sex marriage? Did she think Maggie Gallagher might pop up and put her under citizen's arrest?

In any event, given that the couple was marrying in New York, where same-sex marriage is legal, it's difficult to accept Donna's claim at face value. When a reporter at called Donna to get her version of the story, Donna allegedly had some (*clears throat*) problematic thoughts on lesbians. Apparently, crossing out the word "husband" on the company's form and writing in the word "partner" was "provocative" and "stirring up drama." Lesbians also apparently are just "experimenting" with women. Because we're tired of men bossing us around.


Anyway, according to The Consumerist, the store now has a one-star Yelp rating.


Congratulations to the happy couple. I hope they have a great wedding and have spent their money elsewhere. (I just get really happy when people finally get to shop!)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What He Didn't Say

[TW: violence, hate crimes, homobigotry]

Our anti-equality friend Playful Walrus recently wrote about the violent murder of gay teenager Lawrence King.

As sincere as he may have been, his post was *clears throat* kinda "problematic." Not only because I thought it cheap and tacky for him to play gotcha about alleged hypocrisy on "the Left" within an article that was supposedly about expressing sympathy for a death, but also because I found Playful Walrus' post to be incredibly... empty.

He is a Christian man who writes a lot about his faith, indeed some might say he "flaunts it," and yet all he had to offer was a post that, at best, could be most aptly by his statement: "Unless King was coming to school dressed in weaponry or explosives, there was no reason to kill him."

A noble statement but, like, also a no-brainer. You're not supposed to think it's okay to kill LGBT people! You are awarded no cookies, medals, or special points for agreeing to that.

I mean, is it really a huge gigantic olive branch to extend for opponents of equality to tell us they don't believe we should die just for being gay? In all that one could draw on from the Christian faith about compassion, kindness, and suffering this post was the best he could do?

When Melissa McEwan, at Shakesville, wrote of the violent, racist hate crime perpetrated upon James Craig Anderson, what Walrus didn't say about Lawrence King really stood out to me.

For one, he didn't extend sincere condolences, or even any condolences, to the family of Lawrence King. Instead, he shamed both King and his family by stating that King's "mental issues [regarding being gay and cross-dressing] were accomodated," implying that King and his family were partly responsible for his death.

He didn't express his sympathies to LGBT and other gender-nonconforming people, especially schoolchildren, who might feel a little less safe because of King's murder.

He didn't acknowledge how society and individuals might have failed Lawrence King (and his killer) by communicating the idea that it's wrong to hate and inflict violence upon others solely because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender presentation. Instead, he backs up with his hands in the air and hyperdefensively insisted that "religious or conservative disapproval of homosexual behavior or public cross-dressing" should not be blamed for the violence.

He failed to examine explanations for King's murder, instead treating the incident as though it was a completely isolated incident that sprung forth from the aether.

He didn't acknowledge that homophobia is not yet over in the US or recognize that fear of violence is a pervasive concern for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Instead, he wrote a gotcha post merely noting that it's wrong to kill the gays but people like him aren't at all to blame. In fact, enough about Lawrence King and anti-gay hate crimes, let's talk about how Christian anti-equality opponents have entirely clean hands because the people who actually go out and kill LGBT people are the real bigots and haters. Meanwhile, the people like Walrus, we are to believe, are just "good, clean, regular everyday folk."

The whole narrative is a great example of what privilege looks like. And, I note Walrus' post only because it's such a common sentiment to think that not actually engaging in physical violence is somehow "enough" to place oneself completely outside cycles of violence and aggression.

Well, newsflash, it's not.

Related: Narratives in the Lawrence King Case

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

Stephanie Coontz, Professor of History, writing in The New York Times in response to Phyllis Schlafly and Suzanne Venker's latest hit piece on feminism:

"Mothers who want to work outside the home but instead are full-time homemakers, however, have a higher risk of depression. This is a significant group: in 2000, 40 percent of full-time homemakers said they would prefer to be working at a paid job. So telling women who want to work that they or their children will be better off if they stay home is a mistake. Maternal depression is well known as being harmful to children’s development.

These findings suggest that is time to stop arguing over who has things worse or who does things better, stay-at-home mothers or employed mothers. Instead, we should pay attention to women’s preferences and options.

Feminism has also fostered increased respect for men’s ability and desire to be involved parents. So we should also pay attention to expanding men’s ability to choose greater involvement in family life, just as we have expanded women’s ability to choose greater involvement in meaningful work."

Choices and options for men and women. Isn't it such a frightening agenda?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Twin Speak

As a twin, I found this article on "twin languages" amusing. A snippet:

"Twins are especially likely to maintain an invented language because they spend so much time together and are on the same developmental schedule. They imitate and reinforce each other's early inventions, weakening each other's incentive to learn the mother tongue. They spend less time communicating with parents and other adults, on average, than do nontwins, because they always have a ready playmate and because their parents are especially busy. Twin parents must change more diapers, sleep less, earn more, and parry the brilliant questions forever tripping off other parents' tongues like, 'Is it true that twins only have half a brain each?'"

While I'm not sure my sister and I had our own entire language, we certainly had our...erm, pronounciation quirks that we mutually reinforced. The word "second," for instance, became "seck-UND" with, like, a really weird emphasis on the second syllable. And, the word for our mother somehow became "mop," always said with a special emphasis on the "p," after which we would howl in laughter.

My mom was not amused, and neither were our teachers. By the time we got to seckUND grade, we were purposely placed in separate classrooms and promptly put in speech therapy so we could learn to speak like ladies.

Nonetheless, a special place in my heart remains for being in on inside jokes, words, and lingo.

Talk about whatever you want in the comment section. Even if you're the snarky-ass anonymous troll who's been popping up on random fridays who is apparently too uncreative to think of a pseudonym! I have faith that You Too Can Be Agreeable. And if not, well, go shit in a hat.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Illusion of Asymmetrical Insight

Via You Are Not So Smart:

"The illusion of asymmetric insight makes it seem as though you know everyone else far better than they know you, and not only that, but you know them better than they know themselves. You believe the same thing about groups of which you are a member. As a whole, your group understands outsiders better than outsiders understand your group, and you understand the group better than its members know the group to which they belong.

....[A]s part of a flatter, more-connected, always-on world, you will be tasked with seeing through this illusion more and more often as you are presented with more opportunities than ever to confront and define those who you feel are not in your tribe. Your ancestors rarely made any contact with people of opposing views with anything other than the end of a weapon, so your natural instinct is to assume anyone not in your group is wrong just because they are not in your group. Remember, you are not so smart, and what seems like an insight is often an illusion."

As mentally draining as it can sometimes be, breaking down this illusion is one reason why I regularly read, and participate in conversations with, bloggers with whom I strongly disagree. I have fallen for this illusion in the past and, knowing that as a human bean I'm likely to continue doing so, Internet does allow us ready access to the opinions of those "outside the tribe," so to speak.

Not only that, but when I see bloggers generalizing about The Leftists, The Feminists, and The Homosexualists, I invariably cringe at their sloppy thinking. Yet, when I'm up for it (and oftentimes, honestly, I'm not), talking to such people while identifying as an Avowed Lesbian Feminist that they so loathe can remind them that I'm just as nuanced and special of a snowflake as they themselves are.

Sure, conversations don't always go smoothly from there, but I do think, even on some tiny subtle level, we are reminded of our common humanity.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So, Like We've Been Saying All Along

[TW: homophobia]

Jennifer Roback Morse, a National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage-affiliated leading voice against marriage equality for same-sex couples admits that she opposes equality, in part, because- in her very own words- "anal sex is icky."

Apparently, lady thinks her pearl-clutching opinions as to what behaviors are distasteful are at all pertinent to which groups of people get equal rights under the US legal system.


But please, "Dr. J," by all means take that argument straight to the US Supreme Court. Use the word "icky" even, and continue to ignore the fact that *gasp* even some Normal (ie- straight) People engage in anal sex too and yet still get to be married.

Go sing it on the mountaintops from here to Hades.

Organize a Straight Pride Parade, get some shirts printed up, and spread the message far and wide that:


And then, when your pals try that tired, mendacious trick of trying to convince judges, lawmakers, and citizens that "It 'defames"' those who believe in 'traditional marriage' to suggest that they, and the 7 million voters who upheld California's anti-equality Proposition 8, have anything less than benign motives for doing so" we can point to you and say, "Orly?"

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oh Ree-hee-heeally?

In a headline, The Daily Mail exclaims:

"The Nattering Classes: Women gossip for FIVE hours every day, study claims"

Yep. All women. Apparently.

The article begins:

"It will come as no surprise to their often less talkative male counterparts."

Of course it won't. The cool thing about science is that it's always confirming what people already Just Know about gender and sex differences, am I right? Hence, no need to raise a skeptical eye about this study's findings regarding the "typical woman."

Yet, fun fact! Buried within the article is this statement, regarding the study's origins:

"The survey was commissioned to mark FirstCape Cafi Collection’s search to find Britain’s Queen of Chat."

FirstCape Cafi is apparently a wine company that held a Queen of Chat contest because they were "keen to try and bottle up the energy and buzz created when girls have a get together [sic]."

Now, why a wine company would presumably be marketing its products to girls, as opposed to women of drinking age, I'm not sure.

But more importantly, despite my best efforts*, I have been unable to find this Wine Company-Sponsored "survey" in any peer-reviewed journal or even on Internet. None of the various articles I found citing this "survey" referenced actual investigators associated with the study, where the study could be found in its entirety, or what the study's title even was. I guess since this study already confirms everything We All Just Know About Woman, we just won't be curious, then, about how many women this study included, whether it included any men, how many of the survey respondents answered in hopes of trying to win the "Queen of Chat" title (and consequent free wine for a year, SCORE!), what the survey's methodology was, how it was designed, and how the data was collected, will we?

Nope, we just won't be curious about any of that, because gawd knows, women sure love to prattle and good thing this study came along and confirmed that!

(*Note: My best efforts include 10 minutes of googling around for the study. But still, I'm pretty sure that's more work than most of the mainstream-ish journalists citing it have put into the endeavor.)

Related: Anti-Equality Blogger Not Curious Enough About Citation

Monday, August 22, 2011


[TW: Reference to child sexual abuse]

Not sure what it had to do with marriage, but the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) recently posted a blog entitled "Can You Normalize Pedophilia?"

In answer to its question, NOM didn't include much of its own commentary, just noted:

"Some mental health professionals are, apparently, going to try, according to The Daily Caller (yes, we know many --probably most-- in the gay community would be as outraged as anyone else by the idea):"

The post went on to include a blockquote of another source referencing an upcoming conference, part of which will apparently examine “ways in which minor-attracted persons [pedophiles] can be involved in the DSM 5 revision process."

Sure, NOM included the parenthetical conceding that "many- probably most [lulz, thanks]- in the gay community" would oppose the normalization of pedophilia. Yet, it's also true that a big anti-gay talking point is that Homosexuality Was Only Removed From the DSM Because Of Homofascist Politically Correct Pressure, which is closely tied to the other anti-gay talking point that homosexualty is a mental illness on par with pedophilia.

(Sometimes, you see, homosexuality is a severe mental illness. Other times, it's just a "choice" that can easily be changed. Ho-hum details shmetails).

In light of the context, it kind of makes one wonder how many "marriage defenders," professional and amateur ones included, would support re-defining homosexuality as a mental disorder. You know, slippery slopes and all. Was that the real point of NOM's post, to imply the question without having the courage to actually ask it explicitly? (You know, fear of being called bigots and all).

In fact, I'd love to see NOM run a poll of their supporters on that very question. Because then, well, we'd see how many "marriage defenders" support bans on same-sex marriage "merely" because they just really support one-man, one-woman marriage, or because of the far more un-friendly reason that they think there's something inherently unhealthy about being a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person.

Friday, August 19, 2011

You Mean You Ain't Taking Her 'Cause She Ain't Pretty?

The Lingerie Football League is a real thing.

I just can't even.

It's not that I doubt that the women who participate in this league are good athletes. It's that I find it sad is that one of the few opportunities for women to participate in professional/semi-pro sports has them doing so in "garters, bras, and panties" and in compliance with the Conventional Weight And Beauty Standards Governing The Ladies.


Tip of the beret: Reader Jerry passed this along. I am into the sports and I didn't even know about this league. Guess lesbians aren't part of the target audience of "beer-drinking sports fans."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: Delusions of Gender

[TW: Brief mention of sexual harassment in the workplace]

Don't you wish people had to read certain books before they began blogging about gender issues? Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference is a book* that should be on that pre-req list.

Fine holds a PhD in psychology and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne's Department of Psychology. Her latest book is devoted to synthesizing the research that challenges common assumptions about the "ingrained" differences between men and women. Although her book contains more than 80 pages of end notes, the text itself comes in at a somewhat breezy 239 pages. Fine's writing style is both clear and humorous, making it very readable for a book that summarizes study after study.

For many feminist readers of this blog, I question whether Fine's arguments will be all that new. Many feminists are already highly skeptical of the notion that there are vast psychological "in-born" differences between men and women (for a general audience, I'm sure many of Fine's observations would be groundbreaking). Where the book may add the most value to feminist audiences is that it's a study-based resource one can use when countering that pseudo-scientific Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus bullshit that passes for "common sense" and which serves to justify both gender policing and the gender status quo.

Weaving in historical accounts of "experts" (mis)using science to assert a variety of explanations for women's "natural" inferiority to men ("women lack sufficient heat to boil the blood and purify the soul, that their heads are too small, their wombs too big, their hormones too debilitating"), Fine draws parallels to the newer field of neuroscience and warns against making similar mistakes.

One neuroimaging study used to support the proposition that "men are thinkers and women are feelers," for instance, relied on observed sex differences in blood flow to different parts of the brain. To demonstrate that such "differences" might be spurious, another set of researchers scanned a dead salmon while showing it "emotionally charged photographs." Then, "[u]sing standard statistical procedures, they found significant brain activity in one small region of the dead fish's brain while it performed the empathizing task, compared with brain activity during 'rest.'"

The study serves as a reminder to be wary of "inferring a psychological state from brain activity" and, consequently, of inferring sex differences in psychological states. Fine includes many more examples and counter-arguments to various neuroscience claims.

She also takes some big names in gender essentialism to task for their claims regarding the innate differences between women and men and for writing books and arguments that lack in scientific rigor and accuracy.

Simon Baron-Cohen's "Empathy Quotient" questionnaire that asks people to rate their skill and inclination for empathy, for instance, labels those who score high on the test as having a "female brain." And yet, less than half of all women tested, Fine notes, score high enough on the test to have a brain that's considered a "female brain." Then, undercutting the assumption that Baron-Cohen's test even measures empathy are the studies Fine cites demonstrating that "people's ratings of their own social sensitivity, empathy, femininity, and thoughtfulness are virtually useless when it comes to predicting actual interpersonal accuracy."

Whooops. It looks like maybe women report that they're super-empathetic because women are supposed to be super-empathetic, not because they are actually more empathetic than men.

Fine also highlights studies on stereotype threat, including (1) how even reminding girls that they are girls before a math test can negatively affect their scores, compared to girls who were not reminded of their gender (by having to check a box saying whether they were female or male), and (2) how women and men have less confidence and interest in a subject if they believe that the other sex is inherently better at it, even if their skill is the same. Relevant to stereotype threat, Fine also observes that the Greater Male Variability hypothesis that asserts, in a nutshell, that men are more highly represented at both ends of the intellectual spectrum does not hold up across cultures and changes from country to country.

I don't want to make this review overly-specific, but because many MRA's bring up men's greater numbers in dangerous occupations and how this supposedly "proves" that men are more noble and/or more interested in dangerous/physical work than women, it's worth highlighting the research Fine examines showing that men often create a hostile work environment for women who try to "infiltrate previously all-male workplaces." Specifically, in a review of class-action lawsuits against the auto and mining industries, Michael Selmi found "'an all too familiar litany of harassment- groping, grabbing, stalking, pressure for sex, use of sexual language and pornography, men exposing themselves and masturbating on women's clothes.'"

If men have to resort to these methods of harassment to keep women out of "inherently male" professions, it severely undercuts the argument that women are inherently less interested in such professions.

The big take-away of this book, for me, is that people's preferences regarding dress, occupation, and interests are not created in a vacuum. Rather, "they are formed by the society they live in." Biological differences between male and female humans exist, but we know much less about these differences than we think we know. I'll end with some of Cordelia Fine's parting words:

"Some commentators declare themselves to be courageous taboo-breakers, who shout the scientific truth about sex differences into the hushed silence demanded by political correctness. But this is exactly how they shouldn't be regarded. For one thing, neurosexism is so popular, so mainstream, that I think it is difficult to argue that our attitude toward the supposedly unmentionable idea of innate sex differences is usually anything other than casual and forgiving.... But also, to those interested in gender equality there is nothing at all frightening about good science."

It's just that good science, when it comes to sex differences, can be hard to find.

[*Note: WW Norton provided me with a review copy of this book. I am open to reviewing other works that are relevant to the topics of this blog. In accordance with this blog's non-commercial purpose, I do not guarantee positive reviews.]

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Narratives in the Lawrence King Case

[TW: violence, gender policing, victim blaming]

I've been struggling with what to say about the various reports I've seen regarding gay teenager Lawrence King's alleged behavior toward the teen who murdered him.

Previously, I noted reports that the defense seemed to be putting forth some version of a "Gay Panic Defense," asserting that the murderer's violent crime should be excused, or was justified, because of King's alleged romantic advances toward him.

Last week, The LA Times provided more details about these allegations. Before I delve too much into the article, I think it's important to note that I'm agnostic as to whether King engaged in the behavior described. I wasn't there. I don't know what happened. All I can do with the information I have is to observe some notable aspects of the conversation.

In The LA Times article, Catherine Saillant reports:

"One teacher after another has testified in the murder trial about their deep worries that King's feminine attire and taunting behavior could provoke problems — and that E.O. Green Junior High administrators ignored them.

It wasn't just that King, 15, had begun wearing makeup and women's spiked-heeled boots, witnesses testified. It was that he seemed to relish making the boys squirm at his newly feminized appearance and was taunting them with comments like 'I know you want me.'

....The trial testimony, and defense arguments that school officials mishandled the situation, highlight the struggle that many schools face: how to protect the civil rights of gay and transgender children while addressing the tensions that the issue can cause on campuses."

Okay, so I see some really problematic framing of the issue going on here. While perhaps protecting the "civil rights of gay and transgender children" "causes" tensions, it's also true that anti-gay/anti-transgender hatred, gender policing, and sexual harassment cause tensions. By not mentioning these other causes of tension, it is somewhat implied that those who oppose such civil rights are not causes of tension. As though it is only the advancement of civil rights that is the big troublemaker here.

Another relevant fact would be to mention whether or not the teachers testifying about King's alleged "taunting" were witnesses for the defense. Defense attorneys have narratives to construct that will mitigate their client's guilt. Again, I have no idea if King taunted his killer, but that storyline does closely parallel the LGBT Predator narrative that many people are all too willing to accept uncritically.

Similarly, was there any particular reason King was allegedly taunting the other boy, or was it For No Reason At All? By possibly only including the defense's narrative of what happened, a story emerges where King was not a victim of homophobia and transphobia, but was actually a bully. Yet, does it have to be just one or the other? Inherent in the cycle of violence is the reality that many people will play the role of both victim and aggressor throughout their lives. Can't we hold multiple thoughts in our head that both sexual harassment and trans/homophobia are wrong and not deserving of vigilante murder?

The article continues:

"Dealing with a student who is exploring gender identity can be difficult, especially in the middle school years when students have differing levels of maturity and may be confused about their own identities, experts say."

Here, we are led to identify with the Normal People, who might find it difficult to "deal with" a student "exploring gender identity," as opposed to identifying with, say, the teenager who might be finding it difficult to deal with how others are reacting to hir gender identity. How different the statement would be if it read:

"Dealing with unaccepting classmates and teachers can be difficult for students who don't conform to conventional gender roles, especially when other students and teachers have differing levels of maturity and may be confused or intolerant about transgender and gender identity issues, experts say."

Also, what does it mean to be a "student who is exploring gender identity"? Doesn't most everyone explore gender identity, stereotypes, and performance to some degree? Don't the issues tend to pop up when the student is exploring gender identity in a way that is not in conformity with the (thanks Twisty) Global Accords Governing The Proper Roles Of Men And Women?

But, it was this statement that really stood out:

"Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is illegal, but teachers sometimes believe that they are not trained on how to deal with those issues when they crop up, said Joel Baum, education director at Gender Spectrum.

'We hear a lot from teachers who feel handcuffed because they don't know how to respect those rights and create a safe space for children who aren't comfortable with it,' Baum said."

Wait, so our goal is to create "safe spaces" for children who "aren't comfortable" with the idea that LGBT and other gender nonconforming kids shouldn't be discriminated against?

While I of course agree that all schools should be safe spaces from sexual harassment, I wonder what exactly a "safe space" for kids who don't agree with LGBT rights would look like. And why is this article conflating sexual harassment with LGBT rights- as though LGBT people are pushing for gay people's "civil right" to sexually harass people of the same sex? Given that discrimination is illegal and there are good reasons for that, why is it seen as laudable to carve out special spaces for the kids who think discrimination is okay?

The idea of a "safe space" for anti-LBGT kids is strange to even imagine: "Hey Tommy, is that... purple you're wearing today? You need to leave this room. Your gender nonconformity is making me feel unsafe. I might punch you."

I mean, really? For, within the article, some teachers also testified about how they "warned" King not to wear make-up and how he allegedly would "parade" around in high heels. (Question: Would a boy wearing high heels ever be described as doing anything other than "parading" or "prancing"?) While the principle admirably stated that King could wear any clothing he wanted that didn't violate the dress code, at no point does the article note that the school personnel "warned" other kids not to make fun of him for doing so.

You know, for as much as some people talk about how awful it is for "Muslima" to Be Forced To Wear Burqas and such, our Totally Enlightened Western Gender Rules seem to differ only by a matter of degree with respect to what people can and cannot wear as men and women and "get away with it."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

Via The Good Men Project:

"Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves. There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, 'As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.'”

-Steve Locke, "Why I Don't Want To Talk About Race"

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Default Geek

Well, this is awkward. I guess geeks are like Smurfs.

Many deviations within the general category "geek" exist- for instance "Design Geek," "Music Geek," and "D&D Geek"- but they're all dudes*!

Except for one:

"Geek Chic"

Oh. That's chic, not chick?

Well shit. I mean, at least the Smurfs have one lady (who, by the way, was apparently created (a) only so people wouldn't think the Smurfs were gay or (b) by Satan Gargamel to tempt the male humans smurfs so he could catch them, at least that was the plan until Patriarchy Papa Smurf taught the lady Smurf how to properly exist within the male-centric society as an object of the heterosexual male gaze).

But I digress. Back to the geek chart.

Here, let me suggest other categories: "Female Invisibilizer Geek," "Male-Centric Geek," and my personal fave the "'I Don't Even Notice That My Geeky Infographic Excludes Women' Geek"

*Of the 25 figures depicted, all of them are flat-chested, pants-wearing figures. 6 are wearing ties, 22 have short hair, and 3 have medium-length hair. It is true that many women possess these characteristics. However, the complete absence of any figures displaying characteristics that are coded feminine by society such as long hair, a skirt/dress, and breasts leads me to the conclusion that the maker of this infographic did not intend these figures to be androgynous or female.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Fun!

1. OMFGthoselittlefeetIcan'teven! I could figuratively just gobble it up.

2. I would definitely watch a movie of this woman's life.

3.This woman too.

Or, you know, I guess the The Hangover 7 will do.

Talk about whatever you want in the comments!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Losing Privilege Is So Oppressive

Within an article about a panel on same-sex marriage, I found the following statement to be (*clears throat*) "problematic." Writing in Catholic New York, Editor John Woods opines:

"Like millions of other New Yorkers, my wife, Lynn, and I have a personal stake in what the state’s laws have to say about marriage. Until this past Sunday, our marriage of 21 years enjoyed unique standing in New York state. That is no longer the case, thanks to a redefinition of what the word marriage means in New York. The definition of marriage, according to our civil law, now includes other relationships not at all like the bond shared by my wife and me."

The "personal stake" he's referring to is, of course, that he is apparently being oppressed by the state of New York legally equating same-sex relationships with the type of relationship he and his wife are in. This is what I like to call the "Poor poor us, we don't have the specialest type of legal relationship anymore!" argument against same-sex marriage.

It's all quite similar to how the 19th Amendment oppressed men by taking away their "unique standing" as the class of citizens with the legal right to vote. I mean, it was a small step towards the audacious recognition that women... might be equal to men.

Quick, somebody notify the National Assocation for the Advancement of Straight People! Oh wait, the Catholic Church is already on it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ask A Feminist

I haven't really taken to the Twitter.

Sure, I have a fanniesroom Twitter account, but as you can see on my "Twitter Updates" widget to the left (on the homepage of the blog, if you're not reading in a Reader), I tweet maybe once every few weeks.

I guess I'm just not a 140 character-per-thought kinda gal. And, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, LOL.

Anyway, what inspired this post was a Tweet I saw following my post about many people's belief that a violent killer's misogyny and anti-feminism are irrelevant details about his character. If you scroll down to the Reactions to my post, you will notice that kayodei tweeted a link to my post and asked:

"@rebeccawatson an experts opinion? #feminism do you think male ignorance of fem issues is sometimes mistaken for hatred?"

Holy strawman, Leftist Gender Warrior!

A couple things.

1) If kayodei or anyone else read my post and thought my thesis was that male ignorance of "fem issues" (feminist issues? female issues? feminine hygiene issues?) is misogyny, then we're having a major miscommunication issue.

It really is amazing to me what some people read into feminist blog posts.

Nowhere did I make the mainstream media's failure to talk about Anders Breivik's misogyny an issue about male ignorance of "fem issues." When I pulled quotations from The Guardian of people saying that Anders Breivik's misogynistic motivations were commendable or irrelevant, I was careful to refer to the commenters as "persons" and "people" and not "men."

While I might have a hunch that a commenter who says that Breivik's misogyny constituted the "finer points" of his manifesto is a man, I have no way of knowing for sure, so I kept it gender neutral.

Furthermore, the reactions that I pulled from The Guardian go well beyond mere "ignorance of fem issues" and constitute either (a) active hating on "fem issues" or (b) active trivializing of "fem issues." The commenters I noted weren't just not paying attention to "fem issues," they were lauding Breivik's misogyny and trying to shut down conversations about it by calling it unimportant. Of that, I said, "that right there takes misogyny to a whole new issue."

2) I found it odd that kayodei directed his strawquestion @RebeccaWatson for her "experts opinion" instead of me. Not because Watson isn't an expert and I am. Indeed, I often read Watson's blog, appreciate her feminist work, and think she would have something valuable to say about the matter, but, like, I'm the one who wrote the blogpost in the first place. And, I also think I sometimes have good and valid stuff to say about "fem issues," even if random people on Internet might not recognize me as having an "expert opinion" on such matters.

It just sort of struck me as stirring up shit, even if it wasn't intentional. Like, dude totally misreads my post and then goes and asks a Real Feminist about another feminist's wacky "opinion"?

Besides, this blog certainly isn't a man-free commenting space, nor are questions about my posts discouraged. As evidenced by Neverending MRA Thread a while back, I also don't typically moderate comments no matter how non-feminist/anti-feminist they are. People can even use more than 140 characters if they want!

So, if you have something to ask, just ask it. I might even answer. I'm also pretty sure I couldn't have tweeted this response.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Woman Attempts Cuba-Florida Swim

Diana Nyad, a 61-year-old woman, has embarked on a 3-day 100-mile swim from Cuba to Florida.

While her aim is political in nature (she wants to "promote closer ties" between the US and Cuba), the athletic accomplishment is phenomenal. Indeed, when it comes to open water swimming, especially long distances, women on average have some physiological advantages over men and thus are capable of competing with and beating men's times. Penny Dean, who was inducted into the International Women's Hall of Fame, holds the world record time for crossing the Catalina Channel and, for 16 years, held the world record for crossing the English Channel until a man she coached beat her time.

Some speculate that women's average greater body fat percentage than men gives women advantages in buoyancy, warmth in cold waters, and energy conservation. Of course, hard work, strength, technique, and grit also have a lot to do with anyone's success in such events

(Others, I'm sure, will be quick to chime in that long-distance swimming isn't a real sport since Any Sport In Which A Woman Can Be The Best Is By Definition Not Even A Sport /sour grapes).

I'll just end this post by tipping my beret to Ms. Nyad. I wish her the best of luck in her impressive endeavor!

[UPDATE: This morning, after swimming for 29 hours and about 50 miles, Ms. Nyad abandoned her quest due to "ocean swells, shoulder pain, and asthma." I say it was a valiant attempt, anyway!]

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quotes of the Day

Tina Fey, in Bossypants:

"I have observed that women, at least in comedy, are labeled 'crazy' after a certain age....I've known older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they're all 'crazy.' I have a suspicion- and hear me out, 'cause this is a rough one- I have a suspicion that the definition of 'crazy' in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore."

As a member of the Internet Feminazi Brigade, I was pleased with Fey's feminism in Bossypants, even if it was a bit careful and understated. Seriously, the above quote is probably the harshest she is on the industry in her book. Well, other than when she tells people who say women aren't funny to go "shit in a hat."

Which is, honestly, an apt response for such bigots (ahem, the hive mind hasn't forgotten you, Christopher Hitchens).

Although, of the Women Aren't Funny claim, Fey also says:

"My hat goes off to them. It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good. I don't like Chinese food, but I don't write articles trying to prove it doesn't exist."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Fun!

1) Dogs sure look weird when they're shaking water off themselves.

2) A 65-year-old woman in South Carolina is challenging a $445 obscenity ticket she received for having fake testicles on her vehicle.
The fake testicles in question are, apparently, called "Bulls Balls" and are "bigger and more expensive than the popular Truck Nutz." (Was there really a high demand for a bigger, more expensive version of Truck Nutz?)

Anyway, when asked if the ticket conflicts with the First Amendment, the chief of police uncreatively stated, "I don't know what they would be trying to express."

Oh, come on now. You're not trying very hard if you can't infer a message from fake testicles dangling from a vehicle. Whether it's Calvin pissing on a Ford logo, Yosemitie Sam mud flaps telling other drivers to "Back Off!," or 53 beanie babies on someone's dashboard, isn't some sort of expression the whole point of optional car decorations?

3) Riffing off of a post from last week, if I had to make a list of annoying phrases, I'd start with:

"It is what it is." (Because what does that even mean? Most uninformative statement ever.)

"[Scary animal] is more scared of you than you are of it." (Nope, doubt it).

"It's not the heat, it's the humidity." (Because sometimes it really is the heat. And sometimes it's both).

"It's not heavy, it's awkward." (Because if it were awkward and light, it would still be easy to carry. Because it would be light. And some things are heavy and awkward. For instance, an upright piano I once helped move).

What are you some of yours?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Anti-Equality Blogger Not Curious Enough About Citation

[TW: Sexual assault]

Over at the anti-equality, anti-LGBT Opine Editorials, blogger Renee is expressing a newfound concern about rape. At least she is when she can concernedly use her concern to try to deny marriage rights for same-sex couples. She concernedly titles her post: "Why marriage prevents rape."


I guess no married people are ever raped. More on that in a second.

Renee doesn't provide much commentary, she just cut-n-pastes the following statistic from some tacky website called Dadsworld (which, consequently, also contains a kind-of-awkward family photo of a heteronormative family vertically spooning). But I digress, Renee cites:

"80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. 14 times the national average. SOURCE: Justice and Behavior"

As a lady highly opposed to rape, I wanted to learn more about this statistic.

Unfortunately, Renee did not include a link to her half-assedly "cited" source Justice and Behavior. I guess no one needs to know what volume, page number, or article the stat is from, huh?

So, turning to the Google, I took matters into my own hands and in like 3 seconds discovered (a) this statistic being cited at many fathers-are-grrrreat-type blogs and websites, (b) that other sites were calling this journal Criminal Justice and Behavior and, (c) that the study in question allegedly came from a 1978 volume of the periodical, which seemed to be a special on "sexual aggressives." The study, according to some of the fathers' blogs citing it, supposedly begins on page 403 of the journal.

Unfortunately, my handy-dandy microfiche is in the shop, so I couldn't pull up the referenced study, but then I realized that this particular journal doesn't even go up to page 403. It seems to end on page 388. Was some sort of appendix added later? Or was this study completely made up? I certainly didn't see anyone citing any scientists or actual names in connection with this study.

Oh, details shmetails.

So, I guess what I find strange is that no one citing this study felt at all compelled to, like, actually try to find it so they could read it. Like, just because other people on Internet were citing it and because it supports a conclusion about The Grave Importance Of Dads, it's good enough to provide a vague citation to a misspelled journal? I'm not even using it to support any sort of conclusion and I'm pretty sure I've already put more effort into it than 99% of the people citing it (n=1).

I also found the wording of the claim itself to be a bit strange: "80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes."

Upon a quick reading, I think many people could easily miss that the alleged study is actually only referring to a subset of rapists and that it is not, in fact, refering to the set of all rapists. So, if anyone actually could find this study, props to you, because I would love to read it, examine the methodology, and figure out how the folks who designed this alleged study (a) identified rapists in the first place and (b) narrowed down the field to include only the ones "with anger problems."

That qualification kind of implies that it's, like, somehow worse to be a rapist "with anger problems," but the fucked up thing about it is that maybe the rapists without "anger problems" are just better at getting away with it and so aren't even being counted in the overall total. (Thanks dads!)

But seriously, it's pretty sketchy to use this maybe-invented, definitely-not-critically-examined statistic to support a broad conclusion like "Why marriage matters.... it prevents rape."

In 1978, when this study supposedly came out, a man could rape his wife in most US states and it would not legally be considered rape. Because a woman existed in a state of perpetual consent to "have sex with" her husband, we know that men who raped their wives were likely not included in the grand total of rapists for purposes of this study. Which, of course, makes it a cruel, invisibilizing irony that people like Renee use this study to claim that marriage prevents rape.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Lil' Misogyny Problem

[TW: Violence, misogyny]

Kudos to Jane Clare Jones, writing in The Guardian, for noting "Anders Breivik's chilling anti-feminism."

Nice to see the killer's misogynistic motivations getting a teeny bit more attention in the mainstream media.

Naturally, I couldn't resist checking in on what the commenting peanut gallery thought about the issue. The response, sadly, was largely expected and perhaps explains why many mainstream media sources and journalists find Breivik's misogyny to be an irrelevant character trait: anti-feminism and misogyny are so common that they are unremarkable and, therefore, mainstream journalists are merely reflecting the (a) "eh, so what?" attitude that so many people take with respect to misogyny and (b) the knee-jerk hostility with which so many people react to feminism.

One highly-rated commenter quipped:

"Why are you discussing the finer points of this deranged maniac's 'manifesto'?"

In addition to such openly hostile comments, I noticed that the comment section seemed to have a larger-than-usual amount of comments that had been moderated. Makes you wonder WTF horrible things about feminism and/or women people were really thinking and saying.

There were also countless comments, highly recommended, suggesting that the killer's anti-feminism was irrelevant and/or completely unimportant to note in the grand scheme of things. You know, More Important Things and all that. For instance, a comment that (as of the time I read it) was recommended by 401 people, read:

"Criticising Breivik for his anti-feminism is like criticising Adolf Hitler for his hairstyle."

Because hating women is just as benign as a person having a bad bowl cut?

Another person chimed in:

"It really doesnt matter what this monster thought."


No, really.

It is pretty damn incredible that yet another man goes on yet another shooting spree and so many people aren't at all curious what the murderer thought or what his motivations might have been now that maybe-just-maybe his motivations were misogynistic or anti-feminist in nature. Throughout the comments I saw this hyper-defensive subtext of "Welp, nothing to see here, let's move along and not talk about this unimportant woman-hating business," as though murder sprees like this just spring forth from the aether for No Reason At All.

Breivik's deep thoughts on Politically Correct Feminism Gone Awry parallel the mainstream "common sense" regarding the Suckiness Of Feminism. Anti-feminists note this parallel, recognize it as some sort of truth about feminism, and are thus able to trivialize it away as a benign characteristic of a mass-murderer.

Yes, it's no surprise that many people ignorantly and reflexively hate feminism and/or women. But to try to shut down conversations about that fact and pretend that a killer's anti-feminism/misogyny is just a trivial bit information? That right there takes misogyny to a whole new level.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kicking Out Feminists

What does it mean to kick someone out of feminism?

Doctormindbeam (DMB), self-appointed Director of Feminist Membership, has removed the late feminist theologian Mary Daly from feminism. Writing at the No Seriously What About The Menz (NSWATM) blog, he says:

"If 'feminism' is 'the movement seeking gender equality with a focus on women,' why not throw out someone whose views are obviously un-egalitarian? What use do we have for toxic ideology? What’s holding people back from putting their foot down and saying 'No, this person doesn’t represent my beliefs even in name?' As feminists with a conscience, as progressive feminists who’ve moved to the point where we can — hopefully — look in the closet and acknowledge our own skeletons that we find there, doesn’t it behoove us to make sure that we’re not dragging along a pile of shit with us, simply because someone had a vagina2 and spewed it out and used the word 'feminist' alongside that verbal excrement?

...You might say, 'But Doc! Mary Daly is a cheap shot!' Yes, yes she is. But she’s also perhaps the prototype of a 'not feminist' who still used the term for herself. Among other ills, Mary Daly was transphobic, racist, and misandrist."

That Mary Daly was a problematic feminist is not a contentious statement. She said some abhorrent misandric and transphobic things. Audre Lorde also famously criticized Daly for not offering criticisms of African myths. (Although, it should also be noted that Daly's area of academic expertise was in Catholic theology, not in African mythology, which might explain that discrepancy).

Do these issues make Mary Daly not a feminist?

The answer to that, of course, depends on how we're defining feminist and whether or not the word "feminist" has one monolithic meaning. Perhaps a more useful question to ask is, what does it tangibly mean to kick someone out of feminism?

Does it mean that, for instance, no one can cite any of her works ever again? Or, do we remove her books from the "feminist" section of bookstores and tell the hive mind that she's no longer One Of Us?

It's clear that male thinkers can be racist, transphobic, and misogynistic/sexist against women and still, within mainstream and academic ciricles, be revered as Great Men, Great Authors, Founding Fathers, Great Theologians, and/or Great Scholars. Indeed, if a man's possession of an -ism was a factor that rendered null his entire body of work, how much emptier would the so-called Great Western Canon be?

Or, maybe it is only women and feminists whose -isms totally negate hir entire body of work?

Is it possible to disagree with and condemn Daly's misandry, transphobia, and possible racism while conceding that she made important contributions to the critique of the male supremacist and misogynistic religion known as Catholicism? Or, do we now reject all of those criticisms too?

I raised that question in the comment section over at NSWATM and, unfortunately, most were unwilling to engage it. Indeed, as I read the comments, I began to get the impression that not many of the Daly critics (including DMB himself) had actually read any of Mary Daly's works.

Commenter "toysoldier," for instance, claimed that "the bulk of her critiques are based around a clear hatred of men" so we had to reject every single thing she said and, further, that Daly's criticisms of sexism in the Catholic church were "just opinion, not fact."

Unlike, I suppose his criticisms of her misandry, which of course coming from his male brain are Totally Objective Observations of Reality.

It was a strange critique "toysoldier" made, because those who have read Daly and know a bit of her biography will note that her work becomes much more radical over time. Her first book The Church and the Second Sex, published in 1968 was, by her later standards, relatively tame. Rather than "the bulk of her critiques" being motivated by misandry, those familiar with her work can see that it was motivated by Simone de Beauvoir's observation that "Christian ideology has contributed no little to the oppression of woman."

If one reads the later 1973 preface and 1985 afterward to the book, one can observe (a) her progression to radical and (b) that this progression was motivated by disappointment in the Catholic Church's failure to seriously address its sexism and misogyny. "Radical feminist" is not a synonym for "man-hater," but it is clear from her writings that Daly did not primarily write her books because she hated men. To suggest that, as "toysoldier" did, is to apply a male-centric lens that ignores how people can have legitimate grievances about institutional misogyny that are distinct from hating men.

Further, DMB's post, if you read it, seems to be mostly pulled from Wikipedia's Mary Daly page- which, like DMB's post, references the Audre Lourde incident, a statement from an interview with Daly on reducing the population of males, and her statement on "transexuals" from her book Gyn/Ecology. Because his post is supported primarily by these incidents and blogposts others have written about Daly, one is left with the impression that he has not personally read Daly's works.

And, well, if one is going to entitle oneself to kick a feminist scholar out of the feminist club, shouldn't one apply more rigor and work to one's case than a sole reliance on secondary sources? Should one actually read the feminist's primary sources?

I have raised a lot of questions in this post because I found much of the conversation among the commenters (who seemed to be mostly men) at NSWATM to be MRA-ish. The tack of pulling out problematic statements by a radical feminist, ignoring 95% of everything else she said, demonstrating little familiarity with her work, and then suggesting we have to ignore everything she's ever written is, frankly, unfair.

We can and should, as feminists, condemn racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia in something a feminist (or non-feminist or anti-feminist) says, but there is also room for us to acknowledge that maybe that person also made some legitimate, apt criticisms of misogyny, male supremacy, and sexism against women.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Step Right Up

Via BBC:

"A half-male, half-female butterfly has hatched at London's Natural History Museum....

Only 0.01% of hatching butterflies are gynandromorphs; the technical term for these strange asymmetrical creatures....

The dual-sex butterfly is an example of a Great Mormon, Papilio memnon - a species that is native to Asia. With a shortage of butterfly-specific gender neutral pronouns, the butterfly is being referred to as 'it', and is already middle-aged at three and a half week's old."

Would "ze" or "hir" not work, for some reason, with butterflies?

Upon reflection, I realized that until I know the sex of an animal, I tend to refer to the animal as "it" and don't beging calling it "him" or "her" until I know the sex of the animal. This, I realize is different than many people's default assumption that an animal is male until proven otherwise (or, even if the animal is, like, suckling baby animals).

When a pronoun isn't available, or used, to refer to beings with intersex conditions, I wonder how that affects how we think about that being. Androgyny in humans, by which I mean the inability to ascertain whether a person is strictly male or strictly female, generally makes people very uncomfortable. Some people don't know how to treat a person or think about a person if they don't know which "half" of humanity a person belongs to.

But beyond that, I wonder if there might be a bit of "it-ing" going on. When our only pronouns are "he" and "she," is an androgynous person conceived of as an "it" until the exact point on the binary that person falls on becomes known to others?

Anyway, the article is interesting and it does a decent job of explaining the nature of this gynandromorphic butterfly. That being said, I think the headline is a little unnecessary and over-the-top given how the pronoun below is used as a derogatory, mocking term for some humans.

It reads:

"A rare he-she butterfly is born in London's NHM"


Bonus Hint: Pronouns aren't adjectives.