Friday, September 30, 2011

"Bake Sale" Not As Clever As Organizers Think It Is

Apparently, a student Republican group at University of California-Berkeley is holding a satirical "Increase Diversity Bake Sale." Their point is to protest affirmative action legislation that would allow state universities "to consider race, gender, ethnicity and national origin during admissions." Their "bake sale" plans to charge:

— "White/Caucasian students, $2 for each baked good.

— Asians/Asian-Americans, $1.50.

— Latinos/Hispanics, $1.

— Blacks/African-Americans, 75 cents.

— Native Americans, 25 cents.

----an additional 25 cents off for women."

Allow me to make some suggestions for a more accurate sign:

— White/Caucasian students, $2 for each baked good.

— Asians/Asian-Americans, $3.00.

— Latinos/Hispanics, $1.

— Blacks/African-Americans, 75 cents.

— Native Americans, 25 cents.

-----an additional 25 cents off for athletes

-----an additional 25 cents off for children of alumni

-----an additional 25 cents off for veterans

-----an additional 25 cents off for international applicants

-----an additional 25 cents off for students who require no financial aid

-----an additional 25 cents off for students whose parents paid for them to take test prep courses

-----an additional 25 cents off for students who were provided with private tutors

-----an additional 25 cents off for students whose parents paid for them to attend private school

-----an additional 50 cents off for students whose parents paid for them to attend elite boarding school

-----an additional 25 cents off for students who were not employed during high school

-----an additional 25 cents off for women men

So, I'm missing some privileges (and feel free to add them) that many opponents of affirmative action overlook, but the overall point of my revision is to help illustrate some of the ignorant assumptions on which the young Republicans based their "bake sale."

Universities already implement "affirmative action" policies on bases other than race and gender, and so FYI, it looks pretty racist and sexist when people only oppose the race- and gender-based bases of affirmative action. By eliminating only the race- and gender-based affirmative action programs while preserving the more invisible "affirmative action" programs, other race- , gender-, and class-based privileges are thus perpetuated.

In addition to these less controversial "affirmative-action" policies, there's a lot of "bootstraps" myth-believing going on where many privileged kids don't realize that, say, not everyone grows up with their own private computer programming tutor. Perhaps it's human nature for people to want to believe that everything they've "earned" has been accomplished mostly through their own hard work. So, when a person is raised with relative privilege, it's going to be the exceptional person who realizes that ze was born on third base and didn't hit a triple to get there.

I also found it interesting that these young Republican students would assume that it's women who primarily benefit from gender-based affirmative action. The New York Times recently ran a piece where college admissions officers admitted that, for the sake of achieving gender balance on campuses, they had been admitting male applicants with "lesser credentials" over women. (The same article also mentioned that veterans, international students, and students who required no financial aid were admitted with "lesser credentials"). A UCLA study also found that "the male population drops in schools with blind admissions processes."

Ironically, some of the recent Boy Crisis In Education narratives seem premised on the assumption that men's relatively lower enrollment in college compared to women is due to "special admissions criteria" favoring "unqualified women." It's evident that some people simply cannot fathom a world where women have higher college enrollment and graduations rates than men because women are better at college than men. Not that I necessarily think that's the case, but when the numbers are reversed, it seems to pass as "common sense" that men are just inherently smarter than women.

Anyway, some "men's rights" groups' desire to erode gender-based affirmative action is an interesting observation in how the myth of male superiority can actually be counter-productive to men. (Don't worry, I'm sure the Boy Crisis is still totes the fault of feminists). Furthermore, the same UCLA study found that Asian-Americans are actually disadvantaged when race is taken into account in admissions. Thus, to be more accurate, the "bake sale" poster should actually charge a higher price to Asian-Americans than it does to other racial groups.

Rather than basing their poster on these facts, the poster seems premised on the assumption that it is primarily well-qualified white men who are "losing out" when affirmative action programs are implemented- a belief that seems further premised on the assumption that of course white men would be negatively impacted by affirmative action because of course white men are naturally superior to other races and genders in college.

And, of course, that myth gains extra traction when students completely ignore, or are oblivious to, race- , gender- , and class-based privileges that might explain performance disparities.


There, I Fixed It

Boys and Girls Are Inherently Different, Except When Boys Prove Worse At Stuff (in which case social engineering is to blame, of course!)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Like I Said

Well, despite the fact that Prop 8 witness David Blankenhorn recently admitted to me that he "never felt physically threatened" by giving his testimony, Charles Cooper (who is the attorney for the "marriage defense" side) recently claimed, once again, that releasing tapes of the Prop 8 trial would cause his witnesses to become too scared to testify in the Prop 8 appeal.

While Judge Ware, on September 19, had ordered the recordings to be released, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just ordered them to remain sealed for now.

Via SFGate (see that link I included? How courteous of me!), Cooper claimed:

"Ware's ruling 'threatens deep and lasting harm to the integrity and credibility of the federal judiciary,' Charles Cooper, lawyer for Prop. 8's sponsors, said in asking the appeals court for an emergency stay.

Unsealing the recordings would expose pro-Prop. 8 witnesses to 'a serious and well-substantiated risk of harassment or worse' and would cause them to refuse to testify at any future proceedings, Cooper said.

He did not present any supporting statements from the witnesses. Prop. 8's opponents, on the other hand, are circulating a comment from the sponsors' chief witness, traditional marriage advocate David Blankenhorn, who said in an online exchange last week that he 'never felt physically threatened' by the presence of cameras at the trial. (emphasis added)."

So, yeah. That "online exchange" bit?

So, yeah, that online exchange was with me. And, I totally reported that tidbit already. Last week. Twice.

I mean, sure, the more important fact is that Charles Cooper's little narrative about how scared the Prop 8 witnesses are (and David Blankenhorn is one out of two of them) is looking more and more disingenuous every day, but... still.

Would it have been difficult to include a link to my article?

I mean, Blankenhorn's admission is a Big Deal. It undercuts the argument that the Prop 8 witnesses are Very Scared Of The Big Bad Gay Meanies- because if the witnesses aren't actually scared like the "marriage defenders" say they are, there's no actual reason to keep the Prop 8 trial recordings sealed. Indeed, in our conversation, Mr. Blankenhorn didn't even seem to be aware of the fact that he was supposed to be scared of marriage equality advocates. When he expressed ignorance regarding the whole sealing-of-the-tapes matter, I had to fill him on that little detail.

Really, I'm surprised more people haven't picked up on my conversation with Blankenhorn, particularly in the LGBT political blogosphere.

But then again, I'm not that surprised.

The "LGBT" blogosphere is dominated, with a few exceptions, by cis, white gay men who are deemed (or deem themselves) the spokesmen for "LGBT" rights. While many feminist blogs regularly cover and advocate for LGBT issues, I have not experienced a parity of reciprocity with some of the more popular gay bloggers covering feminist or gender issues. Some are even outright hostile to feminism while, ironically, having their work regularly promoted at some feminist blogs.

Everyone has the right to set their own agenda at their own blogs, so my point is that Mainstream Gay is missing out analyses and observations from feminism and the feminist blogosphere that could really push LGBT rights forward.

For instance, a person simply cannot understand, much less rebut, the "gender complementarist" argument against same-sex marriage, without thinking about gender on more than a superficial level. At one blog, I once saw a gay man fumble his way through a "rebuttal" at an anti-gay blog where he tried to insist that same-sex couples were "complementary" like how men and women supposedly are because there's usually one butch and one femme in a same-sex relationship.

LULZ. Sure.

When one only considers same-sex marriage from the prism of how unfair marriage bans are to The Gays, one doesn't often pick up on the fact that many narratives about "traditional marriage" are also incredibly sexist, misandric, and misogynistic.

Like, if more Americans knew what version of "traditional marriage" they were "defending," maybe they wouldn't be so eager to defend it.

Anyway, I know I'm being vague in my accusations here, and that's intentional. I'm not trying to stir up a blog shitstorm. I'm just encouraging more prominent gay bloggers to be better allies. For the sake of social justice, I think Mainstream Gay would do better if it popped the Everything Gay bubble and broadened the blogrolls.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guy: PC Culture Too Difficult For Navy Men To Handle

The Washington Times recently ran an article about former Navy Secretary John Lehman's recent musings on how women, gays, and "political correctness" in the Navy are ruining the macho "swagger" of the branch and, thus, putting the US at risk.

From the article:

"Pilots constantly worry about anonymous complaints about salty language, while squadron commanders are awash in bureaucratic requirements for reports and statistics, [Lehman] added.

'Those attributes of naval aviators — willingness to take intelligent calculated risk, self-confidence, even a certain swagger — that are invaluable in wartime are the very ones that make them particularly vulnerable in today’s zero-tolerance Navy,' said Mr. Lehman, who led the Navy in the Reagan administration.

'The political correctness thought police, like Inspector Javert in ‘Les Miserables,’ are out to get them and are relentless.'”

It's always such a strange argument. Members of our military can handle grueling training, discipline, and killing, but asking them to treat their fellow soldiers with respect and dignity is.... too much? Like, heterosexual Navy men are totally tough, except when it comes to asking them to not make, say, rape jokes- in which case they immediately turn into craven cowards who can't handle criticism?


What Lehman's comments reek of, to me, is a nostalgia for space that's deemed super-duper important precisely because only a certain brand of Real Man can supposedly thrive in such space. As though when women and gay men "infect" that space, it becomes tainted with inferiority. After all, if a woman can do something that society thought only men could do, what does it even mean to be a man and how can being a man be special anymore?

Also, well, I remember back in March, when Time ran an article entitled the "Sea Witch," about Captain Holly Graff. She was the first woman to command a Navy cruiser but was removed for allegedly being "verbally abusive" and because some were "concerned" about her tone.

The comments following that article were littered with folks, most of them men but some women too, explaining how Graff's behavior perfectly demonstrated how women aren't fit for the military, how upstanding the previously-all-male military culture was until women infiltrated it, and how Graff's salty language degraded the dignity of the Navy. The article contained the subtextual argument that This Is What Happens When the PC Police Make Us Have Female Leaders.

But now... we are to accept the proposition that swaggering male sailors are entitled to engage in salty behavior and that it's the sucky lady culture that's ruining all the fun?

Women whatareyougunnado, right? Sometimes they're inappropriate assholes, sometimes they ruin everyone else's inappropriate asshole fun.


What becomes more clear is that what pearl-clutchers like Lehman are really crying about is the loss of all-male (or male-dominated) space that privileges men who meet his acceptable model of male heterosexuality and aggressive hyper-masculinity. They're bemoaning the loss of a time when men didn't have to compete with women as equals, because it was a given that women could never be equals in alleged manly endeavors, because women are what you fuck and what you joke about, not who you work with. They're bemoaning the loss of a time when the way to build heterosexual men's status, confidence, and power was to cut down women and their supposed sissy-boy brethren, gay men.

I don't believe the presence of women and gay men in the military will be the downfall of the free world, as Lehman suggests it will be. Nor do I think it's the "PC thought police" that's keeping certain truths from being uttered.

Because want to know the biggest truth of all that brave truthtellers like Lehman, and his many supporters, dare not utter aloud?

His argument rests on the unspoken premise that heterosexual Navy men value a climate in which they can make "raunchy" (read, sexist and homophobic) jokes more than they value national security and more than they value doing their jobs well. I simply have more respect for and confidence in the priorities of our servicemembers to believe that one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Being Better Allies

[Note: This post contains a discussion of privilege and various oppressions. It contains one specific instance of explicit misogynistic language.]

True story:

On the facebook, one of my friends, who is black, posted an article that offered suggestions for how white people could learn to talk about race. In response to this article, another of my friends, who is white, commented (to parahprase):

"I appreciate this article, but as a white person I often walk away from conversations about race feeling bad about myself. So, I think what's frustrating is that people of color don't give us anything we can actually do to fix things. So, I'm just not motivated to have these conversations about race when they just make me feel bad."

Shorter Friend: It's important for white people to deal with racism, but more important than that are white people's feelings.

True story:

On my blog, a male commenter recently expressed that he doesn't think I hate all men but he nonetheless gets a vague "feeling"
from my blog that I do "hate all men"
. He was unable to articulate aspects of my blog posts that gave him this "offended feeling" and confessed that he had "no solutions" that I could implement to help him stop feeling offended. He then suggested:

"Perhaps this is why feminism doesn't get much male support - not because we don't think women should be equals, but because of the offensive nature of the arguments."

Shorter Guy: It's important for women to be equals, but more important than that are men's feelings.

True Story:

Big discussions have been had on popular blogs and in major mainstream newspapers about how it makes some people who get paid to "defend marriage" feel badly when they are called "bigots" for opposing same-sex marriage. Some anti-equality commentators have threatened to walk away from conversations in which the "b-word" is uttered.

Shorter Anti-Equality Folks: If LGBT aren't extra nice to us, we won't even talk to them about how and why we're denying them equality.

Now, I predict that the latter part of this sentence will make some people defensive, uncomfortable, and offended, but these comments are indicators of incredible privilege.

For as much as some people criticize social justice activism's "PC Gone Too Far" culture that is supposedly based on people's feeeeeeelings, it is made abundantly clear in many conversations between the privileged and the marginalized that this criticism is a projection: The marginalized have picked up on the fact that what really needs to be prioritized in society are the feelings of people of privilege.

And, accordingly, many people of privilege not only view it as the responsibility of the marginalized to give them concrete tasks so the privileged can feel better about their privilege, but they view it as the responsibility of the marginalized to present their criticisms in a manner that will never be perceived as "offensive" to the privileged. (Hint: No matter how civilly it's framed, it's usually perceived as "offensive.")

But, unlike white people, many people of color don't have the luxury of being able to Just Walk Away From Thinking About Race. Unlike men, many women don't have the luxury of being able to Not Think About Sexism Against Women And Misogyny. Unlike heterosexual cisgender people, many QUILTBAG* people don't have the luxury of Not Thinking About Sexual and Gender Prejudice.

Unlike members of privileged classes, we can't take our balls and go home if we think people are being mean to us or playing unfairly, because walking away from conversations means that (a) the conversations won't happen or they'll only happen in an echo chamber of privilege, (b) those who hold problematic views won't re-examine those views, and (c) racism, sexism, and homobigotry are thus perpetuated.

People of relative privilege (and I include myself in this group) who are in agreement that racism, sexism, and sexual/gender prejudice are moral wrongs need to do a better job of accepting discomfort as a part of the social justice process. (Although, it is worth noting that it's questionable as to whether many "marriage defenders" have an interest in social justice or being allies to marginalized people. I have included that example nonetheless because heterosexual "marriage defenders" have the privilege of walking away from conversations about same-sex marriage that "offend" them).

Francis E. Kendall has written**:

"Allies understand that emotional safety is not a realistic expectation if we take our alliance seriously. For those with privilege, the goal is to 'become comfortable with the uncomfortable and uncomfortable with the too-comfortable' and to act to alter the too-comfortable."

To this, I would add that people who experience -isms don't have an unconditional right to engage in aggression against privileged people. We don't. It is a habitual human respose to react to aggression with further aggression, and it takes a really aware person to not react in this habitual manner.

At the same time, it has been my experience that valid, reasoned, and legitimate criticism is often received by people of privilege as an aggressive personal attack. Being told that you've just said something *clears throat* problematic is uncomfortable, awkward, and feels bad. For instance, very often, making an argument that a particular statement is sexist, is perceived as being much worse than the sexist statement itself- which is why we have to call it "problematic" instead of the more accurate descriptor of "sexist."

To some men, for instance, suggesting that a man is evidencing some entitled, privileged behavior is in the same moral category as, and therefore justifies, calling all feminists "angry menstruating bitches."

So, learning to distinguish between (a) out-of-line attacks and (b) legitimate criticism is a key skill for allies to learn. Having conversations with marginalized groups is going to be uncomfortable for people of privilege and it's going to feel like an attack on one's very being. Such conversations often imply that maybe not everything we've earned in life has been based on merit alone. They often imply that, no matter how well-intentioned we think we are, we might be a part of making somebody else's life more difficult. These conversations often imply that maybe our perspectives aren't as objective as we think they are. They can imply that maybe it's our statements that are offensive to marginalized people and their critiques of our statements that are an accurate representation of reality.

Knowing the extra burdens that people of privilege place upon the marginalized can be helpful in making the distinction between aggressive attacks and legitimate criticism. These extra burdens are (a) expecting marginalized people to be on the receiving end of aggressive -ism(s) while being sufficiently polite about bringing these -isms to light, (b) expecting marginalized people to Not Offend people of privilege when discussing privilege, even though the very act of exposing privilege, no matter how civil it is framed, feels very "aggressive" to people of privilege, and (c) expecting marginalized people to put more time and effort into making privileged people feel okay about themselves than the privileged people put in towards understanding.

Understand that, as a person of privilege, it is an act of privilege to state that you will only participate in the conversations that do not "offend" you or make you feel uncomfortable. Understand that, accordingly, those are probably not the conversations that will be embiggening to your understanding or that will provide meaningful contributions to solving the issues you claim to care about.

Feminist social justice work, in my experience, has not typically involved skipping topless and braless through the tulips hand-in-hand (that only happens occasionally). Far from being a PC-Gone-Awry-Too-Scared-To-Speak-The-Truth echo chamber that many critics claim it is, feminist social justice blogging is, in my experience, a culture of expecting more and calling people out, even those who might be allies with respect to other issues.

Social justice activism, to me, is based on the premise that people's feelings are very important, but more important than that is social justice.

*Tip of the beret: Jarred. I'm liking the QUILTBAG acronym- not only because it's a pronouncable acronym, but because it's more inclusive than LGBT.

**Tip of the beret: EDB5Fold

Monday, September 26, 2011

Not Born This Way

So says Lindsay Miller, on being queer:

"In direct opposition to both the mainstream gay movement and Lady Gaga, I would like to state for the record that I was not born this way....

If there's one thing to be said about lesbian relationships, it's this: You always start from equal footing. It is never assumed that one partner is genetically predisposed to enjoy doing laundry. Bizarrely, I actually do enjoy doing laundry, or at least prefer it to most other household necessities; my partner, on the other hand, is a skilled and enthusiastic cook. So I provide clean sheets and folded undershirts, and in return I get homemade pear-gorgonzola pizza and lemon-roasted asparagus. I also do more of the housework right now because my partner is working full-time while I'm in graduate school. We divide up the chores based on who can realistically do what, and arrive at the best possible arrangement for the two of us and our relationship. We don't have ready-made roles to step into -- the breadwinner, the housewife. We're just us, trying to do what we can for each other.

Neither of us was raised with male privilege. Neither of us was raised to believe, on some subconscious level, that the way we perceive the world is the default setting, and everyone else is deviant. Neither of us assumes that our career is more important, or makes decisions without consulting the other. This is not meant to be male-bashing: I know a lot of wonderful straight men who have done the work of breaking down their internalized sexism and developing a more nuanced way of relating to women, but it's just that. It's work. Men and women begin from different levels of entitlement, and it takes a concerted effort to meet in the middle. For millions of heterosexual couples, that effort is rewarding and completely worth it, but you couldn't pay me to go back to that kind of relationship."

Although I don't think Miller is trying to speak for all queer people, we can cue the countdown until anti-equality folks begin using Miller's "confession" as "proof" that Being Gay Isn't A Choice And Therefore People Who Don't Choose Heterosexuality Are Just Selfish And Undisciplined.

That being said, I agree with much of what she says. I have been in relationships with both men (briefly) and women and while I wouldn't say that I "chose" to be a lesbian, one of the aspects of being in a relationship with a woman that I appreciate is that we don't have scripted "opposite" roles to overcome and negotiate.

Anyway, it's no small irony that anti-feminist gender essentialists (who are often anti-LGBT) who promote "traditional gender roles" contribute to a world that encourages some women to admittedly choose lesbianism. LOLFAIL.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Word of the Day: "Same-Sex Enthusiast"

On Internet, in a forum that I refuse to link to (nomnomnomnom), I recently came across a fellow who refers to lesbians and gay men as "same-sex enthusiasts." (I'm honestly not sure if his silly term encompasses bisexual people. It...seems not to? Like... maybe he would call bisexual people "same-sex and opposite-sex enthusiasts"?)

Anyway, it's such a bizarre term.

For one, it implies that it's only gays and lesbians who are enthusiastic about people of the same-sex. Like, if my defining feature is that I'm an "enthusiast" of other women, does it mean that straight women basically think other women can all go shit in a hat?

Two, when we consider the word origin and history of "enthusiast," things get really projecty really quickly:

c.1600, pejorative, one who believes himself possessed of divine revelations or special communication from God, from Gk. enthousiastes, from enthousiazein (see enthusiasm). General sense (not always entirely pejorative) is from mid-18c."

Couldn't we also, therefore, refer to those who believe their religion gives them special insight into the suckiness of gays and lesbians "same-sex enthusiasts"?

And three, when one is said to be an enthusiast, it is generally meant that one "is ardently attached to a cause, object, or pursuit," rather than another sentient being. For instance, people are generally "enthusiasts" of things or activities like veganism, meat-eating, cars, cycling, rock-collecting, rock climbing, and being mean to marginalized people on Internet.

With that in mind, it just kind of seems like this guy is trying to say that lesbian and gay people are "enthusiasts of having sex with people of the same-sex," but like, he just couldn't commit to actually saying what he meant. Like, it would have been too wordy for him to be more accurate so he had to invent a dog-whistle shorthand that would be readily-recognizable to other bigots. And, on the Internet forum in which this fellow throws around his made-up word, I've never seen another anti-LGBT person be like, "Dude, I agree with you about the sucky gays, but what's up with 'same-sex enthusiast?'"

It's like some of them are all on the same wavelength: "You know what would really make our comments pop? If we started calling them 'same-sex enthusiasts. Awwww yeah, suh-weet!"

I don't know why I've let myself think about this strange phrase so much and then proceeded to blog about it. I think I'm just intrigued by the lengths some anti-equality advocates will go to just not call us "lesbian and gay." Like, gawd forbid they concede that one small point in the conversation.

But whatevs.

"Same-sex enthusiast."

Neat. I'm sure it'll catch on.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Judge Orders Prop 8 Trial Recordings To Be Released

On Monday, I relayed how professional "marriage defenders" had successfully prevented the Prop 8 Trial (Perry v. Schwarzenegger) from being broadcast live for the world to see.

Although the key Prop 8 defense witness has admitted that he "never felt physically threatened" because of his testimony, the proponents of the discriminatory Prop 8 claimed that a live broadcast would have a chilling effect on their witnesses, who were allegedly scared they would be threatened or harassed by LGBT advocates.

Well, a federal judge has now ordered the recordings of the Prop 8 trial to be unsealed (PDF). The Court concluded that "no compelling reason" exists for keeping the trial recordings sealed. In reaching its conclusion, the Court recognized the "common law right of public access to records in civil proceedings," noting:

"Transparency 'is pivotal to public perception of the judiciary’s legitimacy and independence.' As the Second Circuit has explained, while the political branches of government can 'claim legitimacy by election,' judges can only do so by way of their reasoning; thus, '[a]ny step that withdraws an element of the judicial process from public view makes the ensuing decision look more like fiat and requires rigorous justification.' Therefore, because the Constitution 'grants the judiciary ‘neither force nor will, but merely judgment,' it is imperative that courts 'impede scrutiny of the exercise of that judgment only in the rarest of circumstances.'"

And, of course, that is exactly what happened with the Prop 8 trial, and what happens in any case in which a court makes pro-LGBT decisions. Before the opinion has even been read the immediate cry, often initiated by anti-LGBT groups like the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage, is that the decision proves that the courts are somehow "rigged" with homosexualist judicial activists who impose LGBT rights on "the people" for no good reason at all. Many supporters of Prop 8 completely ignored Judge Walker's reasoning and went on to suggest, or explicitly claim, that "practitioners of the homosexual lifestyle" should be banned from deciding same-sex marriage cases.

With this sort of propaganda running rampant in many anti-equality ciricles, it's no surprise that those who are heavily invested in anti-equality activism want to keep records of pro-LGBT cases away from wider public scrutiny. Maybe just maybe there are good, legitimate, and sound legal reasons as to why same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Maybe just maybe the "marriage defense" reasons aren't as good and "commonsensical" as some believe.

But, let's see how the "marriage defenders'" spun it in their brief. They claimed:

“public dissemination of the [digital recording] could have a chilling effect on . . . expert witnesses’ willingness ‘to cooperate in any future proceeding.’”

The Court rejected that claim as being "unsupported hypothesis or conjecture."


I want to again reiterate the fact that David Blankenhorn, who was the "marriage defense" side's key expert witness, recently admitted to me that he "never felt physically threatened" and that he wasn't even aware of Brian Brown's statements regarding how scared the Prop 8 witnesses supposedly were of LGBT activist harassment.

I want to again reiterate that Mr. Blankenhorn writes books about his opposition to marriage equality, writes blogs about it, and is already a public figure opposing marriage equality- making the "chilling effect" claim look like a disingenuous attempt to paint LGBT advocates as horrible, violent villains.

Anyway, the "marriage defenders" are expected to appeal this latest decision. Why? The latest narrative from one popular anti-equality commentator:

The order to release the tapes is "part and parcel of Walker’s broader course of misconduct in what deserves to be recognized as the most egregious performance ever by a federal district judge."

Did you hear that? Eva!



Marinelli: NOM Sought "Crazy" Pictures of Equality Advocates

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: Prop 8 Trial Rundown

NOM Takes Psychic Act on the Road

Prop 8 Trial Resources and Updates

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Observations From Internet 'Asplosions

[TW: Homobigotry, threats, misogynistic language]

It is a strange thing when Christians say that the world has too much love and that we need less of it.

This Catholic woman's blogpost on having to endure the horrors of living in a society where same-sex couples show non-sexual affection in public has received quite a bit of attention for that reason. The post is, in my humble opinion, a real exercise in *clears throat* sharing some problematic messaging. A snippet:

"The same people who say I shouldn't impose my morality on them, are imposing immorality on me and my children to the point that I literally have a hard time even leaving my home anymore to do something as simple as visit the park. And this is freedom?

...Today we decided to go to the park. We live near a nice park that is safe, clean and quiet. Two of my daughters were in the sandbox, one on the slide, the other on the swings, and as I lifted the baby out of his stroller I looked up to see four women laughing at a baby boy as he was swinging in one of those bucket baby swings. That seems harmless enough, but I'm so sensitized to the strangeness in my community that I've developed this ever-present jumpiness whenever I'm in public. Sure enough, two of the women, so happy to see a baby boy laughing, embraced and remained standing there rubbing each other's back in a way that was clearly not just friendly affection.

This is my community. I find myself unable to even leave the house anymore without worrying about what in tarnation we are going to encounter. We are responsible citizens. We live by the rules, we pay our taxes, we take care of our things. I'm supposed to be able to influence what goes on in my community, and as a voter I do exercise that right. But I'm outnumbered. I can't even go to normal places without having to sit silently and tolerate immorality. We all know what would happen if I asked two men or two women to stop displaying, right in front of me and my children, that they live in sodomy."

Not surprisingly, Stacy's post attracted quite a number of comments. Instead of centering my post around the problematic content of her original post, I want to have a conversation about the conversation her post generated. Here is a narrative of events, from my perspective:

1. Two women were expressing love and affection in a peaceful manner while playing with a baby in a park. Stacy observed this display in silent judgment. Then, on her blog, she expressly judged this activity as "strangeness," "immorality," and a display "that [the women] live in sodomy." On her blog, she also objected to a couple more instances of same-sex couples showing affection for one another in public, non-sexual ways.

2. Her original post received hundreds of comments. Many of the ones critiquing her post were civil; many of them were not. Many of the comments applauding her post were civil; many were not.

The very first comment applauded Stacy's post and referred to a world where same-sex couples can publicly express affection for one another as "horrifying" and a "Culture of Death."

The second comment read:

"LOL. I'm sorry. But gay people at the park???!?!?!?! Being affectionate? And happy? And functioning?

Yeah. Being able to smile and kiss my boyfriend in the park is freedom. And that has nothing to do with IVF."

To which Stacy responded:

"Case and point. I can't even vent frustration on my Catholic blog without being harassed for objecting to immorality.

....Could I ask you, please, to never kiss your boyfriend in front of children(!)"

Stacy categorized the second comment as "harass[ment]," but not the first.

3. In a later update, Stacy clarified "I never wrote that I wanted to ban anyone from going to a park or that I hate anyone."

4. Allegedly, one member of "the LGBT community" called Stacy a c*nt and wished violence upon her children.

In response to this comment, at the top of her original post, Stacy asked: "Do you understand now why we are uncomfortable?", implying that her original post was predicated on the belief that LGBT people are monsters who want to inflict violence upon her children and that's why she doesn't want to see same-sex couples showing affection for one another in front of her kids.

5. Stacy claimed that in her original post she merely "expressed frustration - not hate, not intolerance, not judgement [sic]....".

6. For receipt of criticism, harassing comments, and threats, Stacy wrote a later post talking about how she had "accept[ed] martyrdom*."

She also apologized for any hurt she had caused while also encouraging the hurt people to question whether the hurt was caused by her, or by "something else." Wiping her hands of responsibility for causing harm, Stacy explained that the people upset by her post weren't actually upset by her comments but because they know they are engaging in "immoral behavior."


So. These things happen on Internet, and they happen a lot. I see it mostly when anti-LGBT Christians talk about LGBT people, but it probably happens with other in-groups and out-groups as well. A Christian will write a blog post expressing an aggressive judgment against LGBT people and then is all surprised that LGBT people will meet that hostility with hostility of their own.

The Christian will over-react to mild, non-aggressive criticism, such as Commenter 2's, above, by framing it as "harassment" and will react to genuinely hostile commentary by treating it as proof that all or most LGBT people are the villainous monsters she already knew they were.

In two directions, are profound misunderstandings.

The first is the Christian's belief that they are doing LGBT people a favor, and that it is not hostile, to tell us that we are immoral, destroying society, and representative of a "Culture of Death." Even though Stacy's post is the apotheosis of judgmental since its very thesis is an expression of her (and, coincentally, "God's") opinion on the immorality of same-sex couples, she claims that her post did not express judgment.

Even though she expressed a dislike of the fact that same-sex couples were participating in public spaces and in manners just as heterosexual couples were, Stacy claims that her post did not express intolerance.

And, even though her post expressed a detestation of same-sex couples and being exposed to their displays of affection in public, Stacy claims that her post did not express hate.

Stacy may believe that her post is a paragon of non-judgment, tolerance, and love, but to a person in a same-sex relationship, and by any dictionary definition of those words, her post is anything but. I am reminded of the CS Lewis quote:

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences."

Many Christians sincerely do not understand that they torment LGBT people with cruel judgments, intolerance, and hatred that they proclaim are simply "God's truth. They, like Stacy, believe that our real source of suffering spawns from being gay, rather than from people like them using powerful religions to tell us over and over and over again how it's a totally objective statement of fact that homosexuality is immoral.

Call it a "missing sensitivity chip," hetero Christian privilege, or plain old unkindness, but many Christians have a fundamental lack of insight into the amount of spiritual and verbal aggression they inflict upon LGBT people. Hearing it from Stacy, you might think all she did was, as she tells it, "sit quietly on a bench while a homosexual couple engaged in a mild PDA".

So, sure, she sat in silent judgment of the couple when the "mild PDA" happened. But she seems to forget the part where she then went to her public blog, typed out a judgmental, intolerant, and hateful diatribe for all the world to see about the immorality of two women daring to share, in public, their delight in a baby and how "her" society is going to hell in a handbasket. And, she seems to forget that when a person shares her opinion in public, that other people are then entitled to share their opinions about her opinion.

The second misunderstanding, coming from some LGBT advocates, is the belief that meeting the Christian's aggression with further aggression is justified Because She Started It. Many LGBT advocates did react with civility and an apparent wish to engage Stacy in civil conversation. Unfortunately, Stacy did not seem capable of engaging such people, no matter how civilly they framed their critique, without perceiving their remarks as "harassment." Frankly, and as evidenced by Stacy's original post, it seems as though the very existence of avowed LGBT people in the world is "harassment" to some Christians, so you can imagine how it's perceived when an LGBT person tries to actually converse with such a person.

So, I understand the anger. I understand the frustration. I have been on the receiving end of that "how dare you try to talk to me about my hateful opinion of you" schtick many times.

Yet, it's still not acceptable to engage in actual harassment, use misogynistic slurs, or make threats against people like Stacy. Not only is it cruel, out of line, and possibly illegal, it sets the movement for equality and acceptance back.

By meeting Stacy on her level, the level of hostility, LGBT advocates have confirmed in her that not only is hostility an acceptable tool in this "culture war," but that LGBT people are deserving of her continued hostility. Failing to recognize her own cruelty, as evidenced by her "Accepting Martyrdom*" post, the hostile commentary she received seems to have cemented her conviction that she possesses the ultimate truth about morality and that, despite tangible anger and pain she has caused in many people, she is a possessor of "peaceful courage."

I'm not trying to be a smarmy, holier-than-thou hypocrite, and I fully acknowledge I've been less than perfect about Internet conversation in the past (and likely will be imperfect in the future too). Rather, I'm acknowledging the reality that many anti-LGBT people already think we, LGBT people, are horrible monsters. And, working within that reality, LGBT people and allies need to speak with an awareness of how our words may and may not reinforce that message to people like Stacy. Working with my anger about statements like the one's Stacy has made, I try to negotiate that awareness, however imperfectly, on a daily basis.

(*She changed the title of her post to "Accepting Evangelization" after a commenter suggested the martyr thing might have been a bit over the top).

(Tip of the beret: Fannie's Room reader Sarah brought this incident to my attention)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Men Need Manland!

Apparently, an IKEA store in Australia thinks only men hate shopping and that all people are in heterosexual relationships. That's why they've created MANLAND.

Modeled after the concept of day care for babies, Manland is a "man cave with video games and free hot dogs, where guys can hang out while their wives and girlfriends shop."

Sounds like fun, especially because I too loathe shopping and would much rather be playing Xbox than looking at boring-ass armoirs.

But, oh well. As a lady, I guess it's my lady duty to buy the furniture. With my lady partner. While the men get to play foosball and eat weiners. (I guess my partner and I will also do the shopping for our male friends in same-sex relationships, since they don't have any wimmin to pick stuff out for them).

An IKEA associate says: "We expect the scheme to be a real success with both sexes."


Having a space for non-shopper-oriented people of any gender to hang out would be a real success.

Playing into stereotypes about the immaturity of men and the boring shoppiness of women is uninspired and alienating. It carves out a special space to reinforce those stereotypes as "natural" and essential aspects of men and women, effectively equating Real Womanhood with being a shopper and Real Manhood with being a perpetual teenager who is excused from adult duties like furnishing one's home.

(And why should only men be given that entitlement? I want it too dammit!)

It's amazing that in 2011 it actually has to be spelled out that NEWSFLASH!: Some women hate shopping! Some men like shopping more than their female partners! Not all people are in heterosexual relationships!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Prop 8 Defense Witness: "I never felt physically threatened"

During the Prop 8 trial (Perry v. Schwarzenegger), the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the legal defenders of the discriminatory Prop 8 opposed plans to broadcast the trial live. They alleged that the witnesses who were going to testify in defense of Prop 8 were petrified of a live broadcast because they thought they would be exposed to threats and harassment from the LGBT community.

The issue over televising the Prop 8 trial went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where the Court, without explanation, disallowed the trial to be broadcast.

In their pre-trial brief, the defenders of Prop 8 told the Supreme Court (PDF):

"The record is already replete with evidence showing that any publicizing of support for Prop 8 has inevitably led to harassment, economic reprisal, threats, and even physical violence. In this atmosphere, witnesses are understandably quite distressed at the prospect of their testimony being broadcast worldwide on YouTube"

In the mainstream media, NOM echoed the message:

"Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which campaigned for Proposition 8 but isn’t a party to the case, said he is worried about the safety of witnesses, who could include contributors, campaign staff and volunteers.

'The question is really whether Judge Walker can put people on the stand where they can be threatened,' said Mr. Brown. 'It’s a question of people’s safety.'

I have always been of the opinion that this narrative might be mostly a disingenuous attempt to vilify LGBT advocates. For one, the witnesses who were set to testify in defense of Prop 8 were already public figures associated with opposing marriage equality and, therefore, testifying at trial wouldn't have been a big public revelation of their views.

And two, some of the very "marriage defenders" who would cringe in horror at the implication that "marriage defenders" might be bigots seemed simultaneously very invested in creating and perpetuating this narrative where LGBT advocates are evil, violent monsters who attack "marriage defenders" for no reason at all.

Well, apparently the star witness testifying for the Prop 8 defense, David Blankenhorn, didn't get the PR memo.

In a conversation with me over at Family Scholars Blog following one of his posts about the trial, Blankenhorn didn't even seem to be aware of, let alone "distressed" by, all of the threats he was apparently about to receive because of his testimony.

Not only did he admit that he hadn't heard of Brian Brown's claims, he said with respect to testifying:

"I never felt physically threatened."

Now that's an interesting development in the narrative.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Not Getting It

[TW: Homobigotry, gender policing, violence]

Our friend, Playful Walrus, has kinda responded to my recent criticism of his post about Lawrence King, the teen who was murdered by one of his classmates.

If you remember, my criticism of Walrus' post was that it was incredibly empty, indeed devoid of any understanding as to the larger social context in which King's murder occurred. The furthest Walrus would go was to say that he agreed that gay people don't deserve to die for being gay. Which, you know, is a noble sentiment but also a no-brainer. You shouldn't think gay people deserve to die for being gay.

Yet, on top of the emptiness, Walrus' post about the murder engaged in victim-blaming and gender policing, explicitly saying that it's evidence of mental illness for people to be gay and transgender, ironically the very statements that often make transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people feel unsafe. Such statements diminish the human dignity of gay and transgender people and are part of larger cultural attitudes, often having the sanction of major religious groups, that contribute verbal, spiritual, and physical violence against transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. As one psychologist has noted, when gay people are consistently denigrated by society, “offenders perceive that they have societal permission to engage in violence against homosexuals.”

But, let's see how Walrus interprets my criticism. In an "update" at the bottom of his post (which can be found by following the link at my original post, above), he writes:

"One of my critics has taken issue with this entry, because I don't endorse crossdressing, homosexual behavior, and catering to obnoxious behavior on the part of teens in school, where the teens are supposed to be learning things, not showboating. Also, it is a problem for my critic that I didn't blame the Illuminati nor the Stonecutters nor the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy for the murder."

Now that first claim is an interesting way for Walrus to frame things. Far from merely, and passively, just "not endorsing" "crossdressing" and "homosexual behavior," Walrus is a contributor to at least two blogs that explicitly, regularly, and actively denigrate "crossdressing" and "homosexual behavior." Indeed, judging by the frequency with which he writes about LGBT issues compared to all other issues in the world, some might say he has a monomanic devotion to this denigration, which he uses the most dominant religion in the United States to justify.

As for the second claim, his imagination has truly gotten the best of him. I do not believe that violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is orchestrated by secret cabals of haters twirling their mustaches in basements. That was not at all my argument. Rather, I believe that violent perpetrators take cues from the society in which they live in determining which sorts of people are "worthy of death."

Far from being single, isolated events that Just Happen For No Reason At All, acts of violence against LGBT people are part of larger cultural narratives that tell us that being LGBT is something Really Bad to be. On a daily basis, we are exposed to messages that tell us how men and women are supposed to act and supposed to dress and supposed to love and suppose to have sex. These messages emanate from powerful sources like religious groups, parents, TV shows, advertisements, and schools and they tell us that people who violate these gender rules are sick, wrong, dangerous, and bad.

Walrus is not, to my knowledge, an evil man. Nor is he, to my knowledge, a product of the Illuminati. He is, like all of us, a product of living in a culture that overvalues gender conformity and heterosexuality and denigrates gender non-conformity, trans* people, homosexuality, and bisexuality. And, he consistently engages in that very denigration on a near-daily basis on the Internet.

Accordingly, the only plausible explanation for "cross-dressing," to Walrus, is that it is evidences mental illness. And yet, if he thinks about it, what exactly is inherently feminine about, say, a dress? Why is it only suitable for women, but not men? And why do we see cultural variation in the items of clothing that are "for women" and "for men"? I encourage Walrus to think about these questions with a more open mind, stopping his tendency to react with uninsightful "gotchas" and strawarguments that only lead to further division.

Like his ending. Totally failing to get it, he asks:

"If I should be assaulted or worse, should my critic be held accountable?"

His Socratic Question Master routine is valuable only insofar as it reveals the depths of his misunderstanding. My argument is not, as he believes, that "anyone who criticizes anyone is accountable for violence inflicted upon the criticized person."

It is, rather, that we live in a culture that assumes the supremacy of heterosexual and cisgender people and that, therefore, condones the use of verbal, physical, and spiritual violence to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity. When one has a basic awareness of the fact that sexual and gender prejudice against LGBT people are real things that really exist in the real world, one is better able to understand that to call a boy crazy or immoral for merely wearing "girls' clothes" is not only unkind, but it gives further permission to others to inflict violence, ridicule, and harassment upon such boys.

(And let's at this point also let the record reflect that I'm a feminist, Walrus is an anti-feminist, and yet I'm the one in favor of boys' rights to wear "girls'" clothes without being shamed and called "crazy" for it. Ho hum, just some more conservative misandry that critics of feminism will ignore in favor of screeching that it's feminists who hate men).

But I digress.

Let's answer Walrus' question. Is my criticism that Walrus engages in problematic gender policing morally equivalent to Walrus' gender policing? Walrus is a heterosexual, cisgender man. Knowing that, allow me to take a turn at playing Socratic Question Master:

Do I devote my blog to using a religion that is dominant in the US to spread the message that being a heterosexual, cisgender man is evidence of mental illness and immorality? Do I use my blog to argue that heterosexuals should not be able to marry their chosen partners? Do I use my blog to shame men who do not want to "cross dress"? Do I engage in the shaming of heterosexual, cisgender men, knowing that heterosexual, cisgender men are so very often bullied to death by LGBT people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity?

On a larger scale, do religions regularly tell heterosexual, cisgender men that they are, solely because of their gender identity and sexual orientation, immoral and mentally ill? Or, do dominant religions encourage heterosexual, cisgender men to marry their chosen partners? Did psychologists once put heterosexuality into its diagnostic manual, relying mostly on religious and pseudoscientific claims about the nature of heterosexuality?

Do people devote blogs to telling the world that it is Just God's Truth that heterosexual, cisgender men are immoral and mentally unwell compared to LGBT people? How many heterosexual, cisgender men are targeted for violence solely for because people think it's gross, immoral, and wrong for men to be heterosexual and cisgender?

See, unlike Walrus, who undoubtedly sees my civil union license to my female partner as evidence that I am unhealthy, mentally unwell, and immoral, I am agnostic as to whether Walrus is any of those things. Indeed, because I don't personally know him, I have no way of knowing his health statuses and I wouldn't presume to know them based solely on his sexual orientation or gender identity. And, it would be nice if he extended the courtesy of not pre-judging people's mental health statuses just because he happens to know their sexual orientations and gender identities.

So, to answer his question. No.

Criticism of someone's prejudice, and his is a very literal one, is not an incitement to violence and does not make that critic "accountable" to violence that may occur to the prejudiced person.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

North Carolina Mulling Anti-Gay Amendment

Welp, North Carolina is partying like it's 2004 and poising for a referendum that could put a ban same-sex marriage into its constitution.

It's really too bad, not only because of the inequailty involved, but because I love visiting North Carolina. Indeed, my partner and I have talked about moving there in the future. Yet, if this ban happens, we certainly will no longer be visiting, or spending our money in, the state. In addition to the slap in the face of explicitly enshrining discrimination into a constitution, I view it as simply too dangerous to voluntarily travel to states that view my partner and I as legal strangers to one another.

Should something happen to me while in a state that refuses to recognize even legal same-sex civil unions (let alone marriages) performed in other states, there is no guarantee that my partner would be able to visit me in the hospital, be recognized as my next-of-kin, or be able to make medical decisions for me. I can see it now- hospital administrators ignoring my partner and instead calling up my mother who, honestly, knows very little about my medical wishes. And why? Welp, some Totally Friendly Christian Honchos think it's acceptable to ban same-sex marriage on the grounds that "anal sex is icky" folks!

After having a taste of equality, it feels unbelievably regressive that putting a ban into a state constitution is even a viable strategy in 2011. I refuse to go backwards, even if the backwards places have amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

And yet, I think most reasonable people, despite what they believe about marriage or the ickiness of certain sexual practices, would agree that my partner and I should have certain rights with respect to one another. I question how many "marriage defenders" even realize that a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is overbroad, that same-sex couples can't "contract" for all rights associated with marriage, and that their decision has not only financial consequences for their state but potentially heart-wrenches consequences for real people.

Unfortunately, the anti-gay forces trying to convince The People how dire and necessary this amendment is aren't exactly embiggening the discourse by sharing such trivial facts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Meta-Mansplanation

Disclosure: Leftist Gender Warrior (below, in photograph, circa 2005) isn't a real person!


I actually created her years ago in response to some silly anti-feminist men who were screeching about how the evil, sucky "leftist gender warriors" (their phrase) in academia and society these days were totes ruining their homobigoted, patriarchal traditional family structures (my phrase). I thought theirs was a great phrase around which to build a recurring blog character, and that's why you see her pop up every now and then around these parts.

But want to hear a funny story, involving Leftist Gender Warrior, of perhaps The Single Best instance of mansplaining that I have experienced on Internet?

Back in May, I wrote a "One-Act Play" about that Hasidic newspaper that photoshopped Hillary Clinton out of a political photograph. This play of mine featured two characters: Leftist Gender Warrior (LGW) and Dan Splainer (DS).

Given their names, costuming, and my choice to deliver this "dialogue" in the form of a play, I thought it would be obvious that I wasn't relaying a verbatim anecdote. Had I wanted to write about something that had actually happened in my life word-for-word I would have said, "Hey, guess what happened to me today [insert what happened to me today]."

Instead, the play was a compilation of various reactions I had seen commentators, mostly men, engage in online to either (a) defend the paper photoshopping Clinton out, or (b) shut women up about gender issues that uniquely affect women by acting as though they, the men in the convo, were privy to a more objective take on things.

Most commenters here seemed to get that, as the post seemed to resonate with many.

One commenter did not get it. Instead, he took Big Time Offense to the post and proceeded to explain how the conversation in my play, that hadn't actually happened, had actually gone down.

It was very strange. But privilege gives people wacky ideas about their alleged ability to explain reality (or non-reality, as the case may be) better than others.

Listen how commenter Dan (srslyyourname?) 'splains what my fictitious character, Dan Splainer, had really intended when my fictitious character made his remarks to my fictitious Leftist Gender Warrior character:

"So, let [sic] get this right, the male character you didn't give any cool lines to, defended the deletion of H Clinton in an Arab/Islamic [sic] paper... Do you think that would be a common opinion among men? Or are you just highlighting one douche (who was probably trying to annoy you anyway, the fiend!)"

Dan, the 'splainer (as opposed to my Dan Splainer character), assumed that my play was deigning to relay a verbatim conversation between "one douche" and myself. He further assumed that he, rather than me- the person who was supposedly at this conversation that never actually occurred- had a more objective and fair take about how the dialogue actually happened.

Dan's theory: the "douche" was just trying to annoy me, he wasn't actually sexist, and I was just being overly-sensitive about stuff.

Dan continued enlightening us with a later, conflicting theory: the "douche" wasn't a "douche" at all and was probably just playing that oh-so-needed role of "Devil's Advocate."

(Helpful Side Hint: Devil's Advocates are very rarely needed in feminism. There is already a name for feminism's Devil's Advocates, and it's called "roughly 93% of the rest of the world").

Anyway, Dan, in general, expressed far more grave concern over how the douchey Dan Splainer was portrayed, a character I intentionally wrote as the douchiest of all annoying douchebag mansplainers, than with how problematically Dan Splainer was acting towards Leftist Gender Warrior throughout the play.

Coupled with Dan-the-commenter's utter ignorance of feminism, as evidenced by his condescending-yet-ignorant rhetorical questions, and combined with his dead certainty that his point of view about a sexist conversation that I contrived in my own head was more accurate than my own is pretty much the pinnacleparagonprimexamplenumerouno of mansplaining.

Congratulations, Dan. You win!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Study: Men Totes Okay About Being Called Out for Sexist Stuff

Er, okay.

In an article entitled "3 Reasons Why It Pays Not to Let Sexist Comments Slide," Heidi Grant Halvorson insists that women should confront men who make sexist remarks because of a study that showed men react rather well to being called out for sexism:

"In a recent study, conducted by Robyn Mallett and Dana Wagner at Loyola University Chicago, male participants were teamed with a female partner (who was actually a confederate in the experiment). Their assignment was to read a set of moral or ethical dilemmas and discuss together how to deal with each situation, including one in which a nurse discovers that a hospital patient has been given tainted blood.

During their discussion, the female confederate confronted her male partner either for sexism (i.e., having assumed the nurse in the story was female, which every male participant did) or in a gender-neutral way (i.e., disagreeing with the male’s suggested solution to the dilemma).

As expected, men had much stronger reactions to being told that their remark was sexist than they did to mere disagreement. But the reactions weren’t what you might expect. The men accused of sexism smiled and laughed more, appeared more surprised, gestured more often and with greater energy, and were more likely to try to justify or apologize for their remark. But they did not react with more hostility or anger – in fact, they reported liking the female partner in both conditions equally well, and were generally pleasant across the board."

Now, it's not that I think all men are incapable of reacting to allegations of sexism with anything other than pleasant jocularity, but, well... it would be very interesting to see the results of a similar study involving (a) men in less-controlled situations, (b) men on Internet, and (c) a more diverse group of men (the 109 men in the study were all college students).

Given that the study, if you read it, explains the results by noting that people "are susceptible to social pressures to be liked and to be seen as non-prejudiced," I suspect that the results would be much different when those pressures are decreased- say, for instance, by communicating behind shields of anonymity and, to a lesser extent, pseudonymity.

Although entirely good and legit reasons for anonymity and pseudonymity on Internet exist and I fully support both means of communication, they also sometimes bring out the worst in people- perhaps precisely because when a person's identity isn't attached to the words that person is saying, a person has less motivation to be liked and to appear as non-prejudiced.

As for generalizing these results to one's everyday and professional life, I am wary. What if the person making the sexist statement is a boss or in some other position of power over you? I think whether "it pays" or not to call out the sexism depends on the situation, which is why I don't find articles like the above all that helpful.

It's interesting to read the actual study, which admits its limitations, but you can also pretty much cue the countdown before the following too-long headline appears at some douchey MRA site:

"Women sexistly believe men will react badly to allegations of sexism. Truth is, men react very well to such allegations. Therefore, when men are sexist against women, it's women who actually perpetuate sexism for not being brave enough to just call men out on it."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quote of the Day, Presented Without Further Comment

"[Children] also seem to learn, uncomfortably young, that females are 'other.' When Barbara Davies asked four- and five-year-old children to choose items that would show a martian what human beings were like, the girls chose a mix of female and male objects (such as guns and dolls), whereas the boys chose almost only male items."

-Cordelia Fine, in Delusions of Gender


Friday, September 9, 2011


This photo tends to surface when people feel like writing narratives about 9/11.

In it, a group of carefree-appearing people bask in the sun on the Brooklyn waterfront while smoke from the World Trade Center billows in the Manhattan background. Apparently, this scene was very American, to be tacky and look carefree in the midst of a horrible tragedy.

One of the men in the photo has since disputed that appearance, saying that the photographed people were actually in a state of "shock and disbelief." Of course, his account seems entirely plausible, and who the hell is a photo to say what those people were actually feeling inside?

Almost a month ago, I lost a dear friend in a much-publicized, albeit much-smaller-scale, tragedy. My life, since then, has been one of Moving On With Life On The Outside while simultaneously existing in an inner state of sorrow and shock.

The sadness becomes less and less each day. And with the distance from that pain, come feelings of guilt. Which is why the photograph resonates with me, today. Of it, Jonathon Jones writes:

"The people in the foreground are us. We are the ones whose lives went on, touched yet untouched, separated from the heart of the tragedy by the blue water of time, which has got ever wider and more impossible to cross. A 10-year-old event belongs to history, not the present. To feel the full sorrow of it now you need to watch a documentary – and then you will switch to something lighter, either because it is painfully clear that too much blood has been spent around the world in the name of this disaster, or simply because changing channels is what humans do. The people in this photograph cannot help being alive, and showing it."

I find myself unable to fully let go of my sorrow, because letting go feels like seeing my friend, across the "blue water," growing smaller and smaller while I turn away and look onward.

It doesn't seem fair. But what else can we do?

Letting go is inevitable. Life goes on. Perhaps our hearts are big enough for us to become okay with that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gender Debates at Her*meneutics Blog

Her*meneutics, which bills itself as the "The Christianity Today blog for women," recently ran a two-part series on the gender egalitarian/complementarian divide in evangelical Christianity. In it, Rachel Stone interviewed egalitarian theologian William Webb and complementarian Russell Moore.

Right off, I, and a few commenters, found it troubling that both theologians interviewed were men. Not because men don't necessarily have valid things to say about sexism against women, but, well, the primary topic at hand was what a male-dominated religion says about male authority over women and women's silence and leadership within that religion. So, no matter how well-intentioned male commentators are in such a conversation, when those issues are still considered debatable matters while male authority and leadership is a given, including only male commentators can send a message like, "enough about how you women experience sexism, let's hear what the Real Authorities think about all of this" even if that message isn't at all intended. A gendered power imbalance is inherent in the very conversation.

So, while I appreciate that Ms. Stone addressed some commenters' concerns about only interviewing men (basically, she thought their being men was "incidental" to their being qualified to talk about the matter), I still think including only male interviewees about a topic that uniquely affects women is problematic. Is gender ever "incidental" when gender is still considered a relevant category for the creation of hierarchies and stereotypes?

That being said, I did find both interviews interesting. I am quite familiar with the Christian notion of gender complementarism, which generally puts forth that men and women possess essential, unique, and complementary (sometimes "opposite") traits, but I also learned what passes for "egalatarianism" to some Christians.

For instance, explaining his beliefs further, Webb says:

"I call my own position 'complementary egalitarianism.' I believe that women and men complement each other sexually, reproductively, and in other ways, too. Fathers provide something different in families than mothers do; men and women are certainly not wired in identical ways. The real question, however, is whether or not hierarchy (unilateral submission) has to be one of the necessary or biblically required components or not. I believe in complementarity without hierarchy. Or, better put: mutual deference and shared leadership. Do we lose something here? No. We gain something incredibly valuable while maintaining male-female complementarity."

As the purportedly more-feminist(?) position, I had to chuckle at the essentialism and stereotyping. I've asked the following many times in conversation with complementarists and have yet to receive an adequate answer: Aside from physical characteristics, what are the specific contributions that all men provide to families that no woman possibly could, and vice versa?

I mean, Webb is making a really big claim, indeed one that is commonsensical to many, about how "fathers" and "mothers" contribute "different" things that the other cannot possibly provide, but he fails to articulate what these contributions specifically are.

When pressed to do so, in order to be intellectually honest, he would have to concede that the best he'd be able to do is make qualified statement like, "well, fathers tend to be..." and "mothers are generally more ______ than fathers..." So, in addition to being inaccurate, I think it's still sexist stereotyping to women (and men) to continue the complementarist narrative, even from a purpotedly "egalitarian" perspective.

That being said, I do appreciate Christians, such as Webb, who advocate against sexist hiearchies. If Christianity is going to stick around, it would be nicer if a less-sexist one gained dominance.

The interview with complementarian Russell Moore was interesting too, but a bit disappointing. By mostly summarizing what "some complementarians" believe, I thought he avoided answering questions about what he personally believed, possibly to avoid appearing *clears throat* problematic himself on a blog for ladies.

For instance, on the question of women in the pulpit, he answers:

"I don’t think the issue is one of comfort — there are many women I would love to hear preach, and who are much better Bible scholars and communicators than any man I know. But the issue is whether the Scripture’s qualifications for this office (1 Tim. 2 and others) are normative."


To me, that really sums up the crux of the issue: The reality, acknowledged even by complementarians, is that women are capable of as good as, or better, leaders than men. Which means that the debate, when framed accurately, is actually whether religious people should or should not use the Bible to pretend away that reality.

Funny how it's always the sexists who think they're the ones who are the brave truth-tellers about man's inherent supremacy in our PC Gone Mad World.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Children, Not Choices?

Oh, Phyllis Schlafly.

Writing at The Moral Liberal, she tells us how she really feels about family and children:

"The trouble with many younger women is that they’ve been falsely taught by feminism to plan their life career in the workplace without any space or time for marriage, husband or children. They have a total lack of understanding of how demanding a new baby is, and also of the way their own attitudes can change in regard to how they really want to spend their time after a baby arrives.

When Mother Nature asserts herself and babies appear, the women who have been misled by feminist ideology expect their employers and, indeed, the rest of the world, to accommodate their change of schedule. The feminists expect their employer to assume the costs of the priorities and the interruptions that once were easily absorbed in the traditional lifestyle of husband-provider and fulltime homemaker."

In the context of abortion debates, many anti-choicers refer to fetuses as "children not choices," "babies," and (my personal fave) "our littlest Americans." In the context of helping parents care for the fetuses that have actually been born, notice how Schlafly now frames babies as a woman's "change of schedule" and a woman's "priorities and...interruptions."

Similar to how some people entirely eradicate the pregnant person's perspective in their Very Important Conversations about whether abortion should be legal, notice how Schlafly entirely eradicates the father's responsibility to make similar work-life choices that a woman is expected to make. When it is a given that the female parent is the Real or Primary Parent, Schlafly's position seems to assume that the father didn't make a conscious choice to become a parent or engage in behavior knowing that a child might result. Indeed, according to Schlafly, "Mother Nature assert[ed] herself and babies appear[ed]."

Phyllis Schlafly's advocacy serves as a constant reminder of the extreme anti-choice position:

Other people get to be all up in a woman's business when it's her body on the line and the contents of her uterus at issue. But once the fetus leaves a woman's body, you're on your own, girl.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

SCOTUSblog Symposium on Same-Sex Marriage

SCOTUSblog recently ran a symposium on same-sex marriage. Dozens of essays, from a variety of (annoyingly, mostly dudely) viewpoints, are included and you may be interested in checking some of them out.

If you don't have the time to read all of the essays, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky provides some parting reflections on the same-sex marriage dialogue that provides a good summary of the essays.

If you follow this debate closely, I question whether many of the arguments presented will be all that new to you. Nonetheless, it can be refreshing to read arguments that transcend the explicit and immature anti-gay animus so often found on Internet uttered by even purported leaders of the anti-equality movement (remember Jennifer Roback-Morse's anal sex is icky" gem?).

Chemerinsky ends his piece with a prediction:

"I continue to believe that the Court will rule, five-to-four, in an opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, that laws prohibiting marriage equality violate the United States Constitution. Kennedy wrote the Court’s opinions in Romer v. Evans (1996) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), and I think that he will see his longest-lasting legacy from over a quarter of a century on the Court being in the area of eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbians. I believe that his opinion will emphasize, as he did in Romer and Lawrence, the absence of any legitimate interest for prohibiting marriage by same-sex couples. As in Lawrence, and other opinions, he will point to the trend across the world.

Ultimately, the question for Justice Kennedy, the Court, and society is whether gays and lesbians are entitled to equal dignity and equal treatment under the law. There is only one possible answer to that question."

We'll see.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Noooo, Anything But That!

Why on gawd's green earth is this supposed to be offensive to feminists, women, "lefties," or the National Organization for Women?

If you can't, or don't want to, click over, a blogger at the anti-feminist, anti-LGBT Ruthblog modified the National Organization for Women's (NOW) logo so that the "O' looks like....(wait for it).... an iron. The blogger then snickered, "you'll never look at [the logo] again the same way."


I know. A person has do a lot of translating and intuiting to even understand why an anti-feminist person would assume that this "demotivator" would be, like, The Worst Thing Eva To a Feminist.

So taking into account the run-of-the-mill rabid anti-feminist's typical lack of insight into feminist thought, as far as I can tell this logo is supposed to be Big Time Offensive because... (a) all feminists hate ironing because (b) it's associated with women's traditional role, and so (c) how hilarious is it to put an iron right. in. the. NOW. logo because that really (d) shows the uppity feminists that no matter how hard we try, women just can't escape our god-given destiny of being... an ironer...?

What else could this logo possibly mean?

Really, the floor is open to your theories.

Special Comment Moderation Note: Just whatever you say, don't you dare suggest that I have ever ironed in my life!!11!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Winning By Any Means

[TW: Homobigotry]

I actually feel sorry for Jennifer Roback Morse.

Upon reading some of her mean, hyper-defensive posts as of late, I find it pitiable that a purportedly-religious woman admits to being intentionally provocative with her posts and that she is, at least judging by her writing, so lacking in understanding of her political opponents.

Responding to critics of her infamous "anal sick is icky" post, she does not write or explain herself well. Instead of apologizing for her wrong or even admitting that she was rude, she chalks up the outrage about her statement to the suckiness of her opponents. A snippet from her recent post about the matter:

"...the Life Style [sic] Left is so deeply imbued with statism (i.e. the ideology and cult of the state) that they [sic] reflexively interpret and reinterpret every issue in terms of what the government is or isn’t doing. For a movement that claims to be about freedom and liberation, this is not a good sign."

"The Life Style Left"?

I didn't even know that was a thing, and I like to think I'm pretty plugged into this debate. Whenever people use grand, sweeping statements like "the Left" (and yes, "the Right") I immediately become very curious to see their Venn diagram of how they categorize humanity. Judging by Jennifer's writing, does her world basically consist of two categories of people: us and them?

Her immature categorizations aside, her argument itself is perhaps only comprehensible to those who already share her view about this caricatured "Life Syle Left" movement.

She then proceeded to express (sincere or sarcastic?) glee in the amount of comments her "anal sex is icky" post inspired, and then threatened:

"...perhaps this is the sort of post the Market demands, and therefore, what I ought to produce more of."

The privileged message there is that bigotry sells, so who cares if her words actually hurt people. Indeed, hurting people seems to be her point. She ends:

"You may wonder: since I believe this set of comments was basically irrelevant, what exactly was I trying to get at with The Post in Question, apart from the intrinsic amusement of taunting Leftists? I will explain in another post."

Taunting, huh? Now that was an interesting word choice and admission coming from someone who obviously didn't get the PR memo that it's The Homosexualists Who Are The Big Mean Bullies Of Innocent, Sweet "Marriage Defenders". So, again, like we've been saying all along, many "marriage defenders" do not have as innocent of motives as some of their leaders claim.

Then, in another post responding to some critics who wonder why anti-gay people are so "obsessed" with homosexuality, Jennifer notes that her blog talks about a wide variety of social issues, not just homosexuality. She then ends:

"We ["marriage defenders"] think the sexual revolution is an on-going train wreck. We are ready willing and able to talk about all those issues. Will you [lesbian, gay, and bisexual people] join us? Or are you simply obsessed with yourselves?

Just asking."

Welp, I guess she's only "just askin."

Seriously, though, by suggesting that advocates for LGB equality are "obsessed with [our]selves," she utterly fails to understand that our push for equality isn't for shits and giggles and isn't because we find it particularly entertaining to constantly defend ourselves from people who regularly tell us how immoral, unhealthy, and sucky we are. Rather, many of us take issue with Jennifer's advocacy, and the advocacy of organizations like one she is affiliated with, because (a) they are sometimes mean and (b) they seek to deny us our full equality in civil society.

Like, my partner and I just want equal rights from the government. And lady's going to tell me that makes me "obsessed" with myself? Easy for her, with her legally-wedded hubby, to say.

People with relatively large platforms to share their views, I believe, have a moral responsibility to raise the level of discourse and civility. And, if anti-equality religious people believe they have a moral obligation to speak out against same-sex marriage then by all means do so, but it would seem likewise reasonable for them to take on a moral obligation to speak with at least some compassion, kindness, and maybe an iota of accurate insight into the other side's position.

I can respect the arguments of a person, such as anti-equality advocate David Blankenhorn, who consistently recognizes nuance in debate and the human dignity of same-sex couples, even if I strongly disagree with his reasoning and conclusions. I have engaged in conversation with him at the Family Scholars Blog and have found him to be genial and willing to make concessions when appropriate.

People within the marriage debate love to make predictions about which side will be on the Wrong Side Of History. Those predictions are always interesting, assuming as they do that there's ever, like, a single historical narrative about contentious social and political debates. (Seriously, some people currently think those who granted women the right to vote are on the Wrong Side Of History). However "history" ultimately comes down on the morality of same-sex marriage, it seems to me that, oftentimes, people are remembered not only for their victories, but for the means by which they achieved their victories.