Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guest Posting at Family Scholars Blog

Hey everyone, as an FYI, I have recently accepted the invitation of Elizabeth Marquardt at the Family Scholars Blog (FSB) to be a guest blogger over at FSB (!).

I will join Barry Deutsch, of Alas, A Blog, in participating as a feminist, pro-LGBT blogger at the site.

In my first post there, which is being published today, I outline a few of the reasons I accepted Elizabeth's invitation. Although posting there may from time to time cause me to be misidentified as something along the lines of a "rightwing anti-gay" (as Barry recently was, LOL), I am interested in the civil exchange of ideas with people who have quite different views than my own, some of whom are influential players in many of the debates surrounding same-sex marriage, gender, and family structure in the US.

Anyway, here's my first post:

"You Say It's Bullying, I Say It's PC Gone Too Far (And Vice Versa)"

Hello, Family Scholars Blog (FSB) readers! I'd like to begin by thanking Elizabeth for inviting me to guest post. Although I don't comment too often here, I am a regular reader of FSB and appreciate many of the conversations the articles inspire.

As a blog for the Institute for American Values (IAV), which tends to lean against supporting marriage equality for same-sex couples, it is a gracious and trusting act to give me, a feminist, lesbian, pro-equality blogger, a voice here. (I guess this is a good place to mention, in case it's not clear, that the IAV doesn't necessarily endorse what I write here, and nor do I necessarily endorse the opinions of IAV or any other FSB blogger).

I also appreciate the opportunity to interact with folks like David Blankenhorn, Maggie Gallagher (who shows up occasionally), and many of you all about contentious issues in the comment threads. I don't always agree with people here, but as far as the Internet goes, I've found FSB to be a relatively civil forum where many people try to rise above treating "the other side" like ridiculous caricatures. In allowing comments, I think most of the moderators try to be fair and strike that difficult-to-find balance between keeping people safe from hostility while allowing all kinds of opposing viewpoints.

With that being said, I'd like to jump right in and open up a conversation about civility, particularly in "mixed company." (Oh, this is also a good place for me to mention that I do not think I'm perfect, or have been perfect, in the civility department on the Internet. I think an important part of an honest conversation about civility is owning our own capacity for hostility and aggression. In conversations, I have had opportunities to stop cycles of aggression that I did not take, choosing instead to take the easy road of reacting to aggression with further aggression.)

I think, generally, when one sees oneself as a victim or part of an oppressed class, it can be difficult to simultaneously see oneself as an agent of aggression or incivility. When thinking of the Gay Culture Wars in particular, and by that I mean the opposing views that homosexuality is immoral/unhealthy/deviant versus the notion that it is not, I have seen people on both sides adopt an "I'm a victim of [circle one: anti-LGBT bigots or secular homosexualists] therefore I'm incapable of hurting anyone" mentality.

I don't intend to imply that Both Sides Are Just As Bad, for I certainly have my own view about which side is more powerful and aggressive. Yet, I do think many LGBT advocates let ourselves and each other off the hook too easily for engaging in incivility against anti-equality advocates under the reasoning that "they started it, they're mean to us, they deserve it." I advocate for a greater awareness for how such a view not only disrespects the human dignity of others, but is detrimental to our advocacy.

At one popular gay blog, for instance, a writer ridiculed Michelle Bachmann's outfit and made a "joke" about her husband (spoiler alert!) not being gay. When several commenters, jumped in to say that such attacks are out of line, some people reasoned that she deserved it because of her anti-gay opinions and that it was just "harmless" fun.

As I looked at the blogger's short post, I kept thinking, how might a conservative woman who opposes LGBT rights read his "joke"? Would she be more or less likely to reconsider her views on homosexuality?

I also find it problematic that the prominent Dan Savage, a gay man who founded a popular anti-bullying campaign, makes it clear through other campaigns he has founded that it is okay, actually, to bully some people.

Sure, chalk these up as "harmless" jokes, but are they really "harmless" to the people on the receiving end of them? Of course not, and that's the point. And sure, the people harmed by this bullying are often bullies to LGBT people. But, if a person already believes that LGBT people are evil villains, don't these irrelevant personal attacks only further cement that view?

These personal attacks are mostly venting that appeals only to those who already agree with us about LGBT rights and further polarizes the opposition.

Looking at those who oppose LGBT equality, attorney Chuck Cooper argued during the Prop 8 trial that it would be a "slur" on the 7 million Californians who voted on the ban on marriage licenses for same-sex couples to suggest that they had anti-gay, bigoted reasons for doing so.

Sure, I would concede that some people might have civil reasons for opposing equality, and yet how might the words and actions of certain groups, commentators, and activists further cement the view that, yes, actually lots of people really do have anti-gay, bigoted reasons for opposing marriage equality?

I'm reminded of Stacy, a Catholic blogger who wrote an infamous post about the horrors of having to live in a society where same-sex couples show non-sexual affection with one another in public spaces. I'm reminded of articles that refer to representation of gay and lesbian characters in the media as an infection that ought to be staunched and avoided. I'm reminded of some of the commenters who congregate at the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) blog and call equalty advocates names like marriage corruption vandals" while referencing the so-called "homosexual manifesto" for ruining society.

I question whether those who agree with such viewpoints have an accurate understanding of how, to many LGBT people, such statements are not at all harmless and are, to us, actually quite hostile. With such an understanding, they might better understand LGBT people's accusations of anti-gay bullying. It's an understanding that is sorely lacking, as some opponents of LGBT equality consider it to be "mean," "bullying," or "a silencing tactic" when equality advocates call them bigots or bullies.

Regardless of whether one sees that hostility oneself, or views it as PC Gone Too Far whining, perhaps it can be useful for such people to wonder how posting such articles might further cement the "other side's" notion that those who oppose marriage equality or LGBT representation in the media actually are anti-gay bigots?

What do you all think?

Related: Conversation About Civility

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