Friday, July 29, 2011

Worry If You Want To

Over at Shakesville, Melissa aptly noted:

"Telling people to 'smile' and/or 'laugh' is not, in fact, nice.

Telling people how to behave is an assertion of ownership; it is disdainful of individual agency, a failure to acknowledge boundaries and autonomy."

Some women are familiar with the phenomenon of random men commanding us to "smile" or "cheer up" whilst passing on the street. It's a small microaggression, but it's always been pretty annoying to me. Like, who the hell is some stranger to tell me how to feel or display my emotions? It's like some men don't realize that women are people with legitimate reasons to be feeling however it is we're feeling at the moment.

Anyway, when I read Melissa's post, I immediately thought of the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and realized that it has always bothered me on some level. It came out in 1988 and I remember it being on the radio a lot back then. I vaguely remember people wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan and a big yellow happy face.

These shirts, they taunted, "Oh, you're gay and your mom might hate you because of it? Don't worry...just be happy anyway and pretend your problems don't exist!"


And, if you listen to the lyrics, it's actually really condescending and is basically the song version of a dude commanding someone to "smile." A sample:

"Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy......
When you worry call me
I make you happy
Don't worry, be happy
Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got not girl to make you smile
But don't worry be happy
Cause when you worry
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don't worry, be happy (now).....

There is this little song I wrote
I hope you learn it note for note
Like good little children."

Like, sometimes, we don't have to pretend that everything is fine if it's not, right? Being sad, unhappy, or worried is a regular part of the human experience and we should be able to have those feelings even if we run the grave risk of showing our frowny faces and being a buzzkill.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Children of Women

Over at the Family Scholars Blog, the anti-equality-leaning Elizabeth Marquardt posted a short snippet she entitled "Daughters of the Second Wave." This post was an excerpt of Rebecca Walker criticizing her famous feminist mother, Alice Walker, for "offering herself up as a mother figure" to everyone but her own daughter.

I don't know what Elizabeth's motives were in posting the piece since she didn't provide commentary. But, given the title she gave it, I would infer that she was making a statement about how Famous Feminists Are Bad Mothers because they did not prioritize motherhood.

Indeed, many anti-feminists and non-feminists (not necessarily Elizabeth, here) take a certain delight in pointing out feminists who supposedly turn out to be awful mothers and how that, in turn, means that they have utterly failed at being women.

Yet, couldn't a similar criticism/mocking be made of Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative anti-feminist crusader who hired nannies to raise her children while she campaigned against equal rights for women?

What about Sarah Palin? Shouldn't she be at home taking care of her children, as Rick Santorum suggested, instead of opting for a high profile public career? Aren't her children missing out on Having An Awesome Highly-Involved Mother?

My point in raising these question is a rhetorical one.

Children might indeed miss a female parent just as they miss a male parent who isn't around much, but rarely do commentators suggest that male parents who are public figures should be made to feel guilty for having public aspirations that take time away from parenting.

Rarely do commentators suggest that a man should stifle his professional ambitions and talent because he has children at home.

Nosy commentators who judge other women's choices while letting men off the hook for the same behavior hurt women of all political persuasions. Within their commentary is the subtext that a female parent is the Real Parent while a male parent is a Less Involved Secondary Parent.

What if, instead, the responsibility for Being A Real Parent was spread to two people, instead of just one?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Unremarkable Misogyny

[TW: Violence]

Would it really be that difficult for mainstream media sources to mention that Norway murderer Anders Breivik was motivated by misogyny and anti-feminism, in addition to his much-discussed xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment?

Michelle Goldberg notes, of the killer's 1,500 page manifesto, parts of which parallel some of the most extreme, hateful, violent MRA fantasies on the internet:

"Rarely has the connection between sexual anxiety and right-wing nationalism been made quite so clear. Indeed, Breivik’s hatred of women rivals his hatred of Islam, and is intimately linked to it. Some reports have suggested that during his rampage on Utoya, he targeted the most beautiful girl first. This was about sex even more than religion....

...[W]hile he pretends to abhor Muslim subjugation of women, he writes that the 'fate of European civilisation depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism.' When cultural conservatives seize control of Europe, he promises, 'we will re-establish the patriarchal structures.' Eventually, women 'conditioned' to this new order 'will know her place in society.' His mad act was in the service of male superiority as well as Christian nationalism. Those two things, of course, almost always go together."

This information is highly-relevant as to why this man committed his crime and yet it has been omitted from most media accounts I have read regarding the situation.


To invisibilize the gender-based, male-supremacist motivations of this crime communicates that a violent hatred of half the human population is not important, notable, or worthy of condemnation.

Is the hatred of women so common that it doesn't need to be explicitly pointed out or criticized? Or, is it that violence against women, unlike violence against groups that also include men, is too specific to women to be seen as the human rights tragedy that it is?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Little Things

Personal anecdote time, wahoo!

My partner and I are getting civil unioned now that it's legal for same-sex couples where we live. Or, as I like to think of it, "we're taking a sip out of the separate-and-unequal fountain."

But seriously, given "traditional marriage's" problematic history, I am okay with getting civil unioned and, actually, think the state should only grant civil union licenses and leave couples and churches free to call their relationships marriage (or not) if they wish. Marriage is an incredibly loaded word in the US and too many people are vying for the power to define it by its One True Definition. Of course, I also think civil unions should confer the same federal benefits as marriage, which they currently do not.

Anyway, enough political stuff.

I'm a lucky gal. I like to think that life is lived in the small moments and that the little things count. The little things are the building blocks upon which the Big Things rest. Experience has taught me to be wary of grand romantic gestures, especially when they're not supported by the little things.

For instance, I once briefly dated someone who, within our first couple of weeks together, (a) flew me to visit hir for a vacation and (b) bought me an X-box (which, score!). I was very flattered, but in the back of my mind I had this sense of uneasiness. It kind of felt like ze was bribing me to be with hir or that these grand gestures were overcompensating for something.

As two weeks turned into two months, I started catching this person in lie after lie after lie. Lies about important things and, what really got me in the end, lies about stupid, unimportant things. Despite the grand gestures, I broke things off. The grand gestures were all this person was putting into the relationship and I wanted to be with someone, not only who I could be authentic with, but who could be authentic with me.

My partner, who shows up sometimes around here as Hammerpants, is really good at the little things.

Like, she lets me flatter her into always scooping the ice cream ("you have such strong wrists!"). She helps me figure out how to do my hair when we have to go to a nice event. She drives me to work when it's raining so I don't have to ride my bike. She rubs my always-aching feet at night ("you have such strong hands!") and is good at pushing the knots out of my back. She wears her heart on her sleeve and cries at practically every single Grey's Anatomy.

When I tell her that Someone Is Wrong On Internet Or My Blog, she is always on my side. (Helpful Hint: If you can be that person for a blogger in your life, that loyalty goes a long way, LOL).

I try to do the little things for her too, even when it involves getting really gross things out of shower drains.

We've been together for more than 5 years and I think we've developed a pretty egalatarian relationship. We are not opposites, but we are complementary in ways that have no relevance to our genders.

She walks the dogs in the mornings because I'm not a morning person, and I walk them at night, because she's not a night person. We take turns cooking. She builds things; I fix things. She buys fancy electronic stuff; I set up the fancy electronic stuff. We take out the trash together. We get groceries together and split the tab. We have the same thoughts on kids (adoption, eventually).

And most importantly, I know that she's my person.

Not that we own each other, just that we're committed to trying to get through this life the best we can, together. I'm thankful that the state is recognizing this committment and that we are going to have a portion of the rights available to legally married couples.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dudes: Chivalry Just Natural, Not Sexist

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Samantha Brett explains that not only is she a feminist, she likes it when men do shit for her. Indeed, and pull out the fainting couch folks, she recently found herself "outraged" and "embarassed" when a "feminist study" suggested that chivalry constitutes sexism against women.

As Totally Objective Proof that chivalry is not actually sexism against, or damaging to, women, Brett dedicated her column to polling "a bunch of blokes" to weigh in on the matter. Because, naturally, who else, if not men, would be experts on what constitutes sexism against women?

Accordingly, the fellas Tell It Like It Is:

"'From an evolutionary perspective, I'm meant to do the physical stuff because I was born stronger than her, and because she is busy with the children or whatever,' said Ned, a 30-something finance guy. 'Opening a car door is a tiny manifestation of that.'"

...the fuck? I love it. Oooga booga grunt grunt, me open car doors because me caveman! Woman-person busy with children or some shit. Seriously, dude, stick to finance.

And, before anyone constructs the why-do-you-yell-at-men-when-they-open-doors-for-you strawman, my belief is that a person's status as "woman," by itself, should never be the sole determining factor with respect to whether a person extends basic courtesies to another human being. If a man opens a door for me, I merely say "thanks" and continue about my day- I don't ever know his inner motivations for holding open the door or whether he opens for it everyone.

Nonetheless, even if a person has good intentions, it is sexist to use crap amateur evopsych/anthropology to perpetuate the idea that man = strong while woman = weak.

Moving on, Brett's second expert adds his thoughts:

"Another bloke, Tom, a successful entrepreneur, told me that he couldn't even date a woman who wouldn't allow him to do things for her. 'It makes me feel good to do something for a woman because that way I feel needed. If I don't feel like I serve a purpose in her life, I don't really want to be with her.'"

Ah yes, a variation on the theme of some men having such frail egos that they can't fathom women being their equals. I mean, seriously, we don't see anything damaging or sexist about the proposition that Woman exists to give Man His UItimate Meaning In Life (and, correspondingly, that men exist to do shit for women, and if men aren't opening doors for women they have no purpose in life)?

Moving on, "Jed" explains:

"Feminism is anti-evolution. The whole point of sexual attraction is to have polarity in relationships. Humans exist because women are meant to be maternal and physically weaker, but emotionally stronger. I think most men wouldn't want to be with women who believed in total equality. A healthy relationship should have two different halves to it, not two people equal in all respects."

Well, there's that theme again, this time with a dose of Men-Are-From-Mars-Women-Are-From-Venus pop essentialism: Men and women are not equal because men couldn't handle it if men and women were equal. And also polarity. Alrighty then.

So, when MRAs talk about how women and Teh Feminists want to retain "female privilege" while getting rid of male privilege, this is what they're talking about. Women will never be seen as equal as long as self-described feminists, in this bizzare over-eager-to-please manner, insist that we love it, we really really love it when men treat us like we're not equal at all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Today's Deep Thought

[TW: Violence, rape culture, homophobia]

Apparently, the boy who murdered the 15-year-old gay student Lawrence King is putting forth some version of a Gay Panic Defense.

When a man uses the Gay Panic Defense (PDF), and it is almost exclusively men who have used this defense, he is asserting that his violent crime should be excused, or is justified, because another man's unwanted sexual advance toward him have rendered him temporarily and violently insane.

Isn't that theory interesting to juxtapose with the notion many heterosexual men have regarding their special entitlement to impose unwanted sexual advances upon women, particularly in elevators?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You Think There's Men In This Country Who Ain't See Your Soccer Skillz?

I know. Talking about the Women's World Cup is so five days ago, which is basically two years in Internet Time, but I did at least want to mention my thoughts on it all.

I love sports. Because my high school didn't have a girls' soccer team until my senior year of high school, I never got much into soccer, but I've always enjoyed the World Cup. This year, of course, I was on the edge of my seat during the final match as the USA scored, then Japan scored, and then it was overtime, and then the USA scored again, and then Japan scored again at the very end and don't even get me started on those penalty kicks!

It was one of a handful of complete soccer matches I have ever watched in my life and, afterwards, I realized that I have never really given the game a fair shake. As the excitement around the tournament peaked, I think too, that perhaps many sports fans realized that maybe they hadn't given women's sports a fair shake either.

In one of the best reviews of A League of Their Own that I've ever read, Rebecca Katerine Hirsch observes the "eruption of acceptance" that meets the players and tells them:

"I matter, I’m strong. I look good. I play real good and people respect me. Do you hear them clapping? They want to see me play, they’re jumping up in the bleachers and taking my picture—and not ‘cause I’m their slip of a sex fantasy but because I’m a good athlete. They admire my skills. They admire my talent. They might want to fuck me. But they want to fuck me because I’m tough, because I’m strong/beautiful and because I represent their highest ideals for a moral civilization based on might and merit… not because I’m a weak and stupid receptacle for their semen."

The players on the US soccer team are indeed sexy but, like their male counterparts, they are not merely sexy. They are athletes, human, incredibly talented and recognized as such.

But it wasn't, and isn't, always that way.

In A League of Their Own, the voice of Maida Gillespie serves, throughout the movie, as a constant gender-policing reminder that There Are Things That Real Women Do Not Do. For instance, on her radio show, perhaps lying ass-over-heels on her fainting couch, she concernedly notes:

"Careers and higher education are leading to the masculinization of women, with enormously dangerous consequences to the home, the children, and our country. When our boys come home from war, what kind of girls will they be coming home to? And now the most disgusting example of this sexual confusion: Mr. Walter Harvey of Harvey bars is presenting us with [disgusted tone] women's base-ball. Right here in Chicago, young girls plucked from their families are gathered at Harvey Field, to see which one of them can be the most masculine. Mr. Harvey, like your candy bars, you're completely.... nuts."

Gillespie's message is juxtaposed with images of women trying out for the various professional baseball teams and in that comparison, the audience is invited to treat Gillespie's gender policing with ridicule. Like, here the women are busting their asses and doing something they love to do, and Gillespie's all "this is disgusting and unnatural."

What a buzzkill, right?

Gillespie's running commentary is funny in the context of the movie, but it is a reflection, of course, of what passes as "common sense" to some. Even today.

I've written before about those anti-Title IX crusaders who use women's previous lack of opportunity in sports to circularly argue that women are inherently less interested in sports than men are, and to argue that Title IX is Ruining Everything For the Poor Poor Men Who Now Must Share Resources Instead Of Getting Everything For Themselves. As late as 2006, arch-anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly was still saying shit like:

"This year's spectacular Rose Bowl game attracted a phenomenal 35.6 million viewers because it featured what we want: rugged men playing football and attractive women cheering them on. Americans of every class, men and women, remained glued to their television sets and nearly 95,000 spectators watched from the stands.

The runaway success of this game proved again that stereotypical roles for men and women do not bother Americans one bit. Political correctness lost out as all-male teams battled and women cheered."

I don't object to her idea that Americans lurve "rugged men playing football and attractive women cheering them on." What I object to is her presumption to speak for all Americans regarding that matter and her implication that the natural role for men is to play the rugged sports while the natural role for women is to attractively cheer the men on.

I mean, what does Phyllis Schlafly think when she watches the Women's World Cup and sees dozens thousands of people in the stands watching? Is such a momentous event even on her radar?

The 2011 Women's World Cup final between USA and Japan set the record for the most watched soccer match in cable history. The game set a new Twitter record, having inspired 7,196 Tweets per second.

The Women's World Cup is over and commentators are saying that it was a shining moment for women's sports, a real breakthrough. Yet, if memory serves, we said the same thing back in '99 after Brandi Chastain pumped her fists in her sports bra.

I want to be optimistic that Things Will Be Different This Time, that the many mainstream sportswriters and the "I like rugged men playing football, but what do you know these women in the World Cup are cool too" sportsfans might really mean it this time.

I want to hope (see what I did there?) that all those Twitterers (Tweeters?) won't go back to Ignoring Women's Sports now that one of the big shows is over.

I want to believe that the mainstream narratives about what it means to be men and women in sports and in the stands can be better than they have been.

We'll see.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Ex-Gay Therapy" Is Offensive To All

[TW: Gender policing, homophobia]

I've been following the Marcus Bachmann ex-gay conversion therapy thing with mild interest. Of course, I think the concept of "ex- gay conversion therapy" is horribly offensive and rightly condemned for its framing of same-sex attraction as disordered. I think much of the criticism he (and his presidential candidate wife) are getting is deserved.


When we consider that the core of "ex-gay conversion therapy" is the enforcement of the most rigid of gender roles and presentations, only one aspect of which is heterosexuality, why are so many of the criticisms only focusing on the "this is so offensive to gay people" aspect of what makes this sort of therapy abhorrent?

A description of the "therapy," from a man who underwent it, via Truth Wins Out:

"During session 5, Wiertzema advised Becker to 'further develop your own sense of masculinity.' Reparative therapy reinforces strict gender roles and works to erase outward appearances of femininity in men and masculinity in women. Because these programs do not genuinely change sexual orientation, much focus is placed on changing behavior so an individual can 'pass' as heterosexual, even if the gay person has not changed on the inside."

Notice the all-too-familiar circularity in the thinking of those who promote these strict gender roles.

On the one hand, they tell us, masculinity is inherent in and essential to men, while femininity is inherent in and essential to women. But on the other hand, some men and women must be indoctrinated into how to display proper masculinity and femininity. Even though the very existence of men and women who don't "properly" display masculinity and femininity subverts the very notion that there is One Correct Way to be a man or a woman, "conversion therapy" proponets nonetheless continue to insist on their stifling version of gender conformity.

The message is clear.

There are certain proper, healthy ways to be a real woman and there are certain proper, healthy ways to be a real man. I question whether any person on the planet fully meets the standards of Real Manhood and Real Womanhood that those who have deemed themselves the deciders of such things put out as models.

"Ex-gay conversion therapy" isn't just offensive to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. It's offensive to everyone.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

That Marriage Vows' Statement on Women in Combat

[TW: Discussion of sexual and military violence, racism]

So, you might have heard of that "Marriage Vow" (PDF) that actual contenders for the US presidency Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum signed. The purpose of this document is to get political candidates to sign a vow to do things like vigorously oppose same-sex marriage, remain faithful to one's spouse, and Support The Troops. The point also seems to get Real American signees to oppose politicians who don't support the statements in the vow.

(Yes, "marriage defenders" are Very Serious about these types of self-righteous threat-vow dealies).

This vow, of course, contains the now infamous and racist implication that blacks were better off during slavery than they are now, which has apparently been removed. (Also, whooops re: that United Rainbow of Bigotry).

Reading the Vow, I noticed another interesting provision, in which the candidates promised:

"Support for the enactment of safeguards for all married and unmarried U.S. Military and National Guard personnel, especially our combat troops, from inappropriate same-gender or opposite-gender sexual harassment, adultery or intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc.); plus prompt termination of military policymakers who would expose American wives and daughters to rape or sexual harassment, torture, enslavement or sexual leveraging by the enemy in forward combat roles."

I clicked on the link provided in the citation for this promise and it went to the Center for Military Readiness'** (CMR) page on "Women in Combat" and "Homosexuals in Combat," pages that are comprised of CMR-written articles about those two topics. No single specific article was mentioned, so I presume we're supposed to read them all and come to the same conclusion as the authors of this document did. I always love that tack- say something really provocative and then, when asked for evidence, just throw a bunch of links or articles at someone and hope something sticks!

**Fun Fact: CMR is an advocacy group that opposes women in combat roles and LGBT people in the military and is headed by Elaine Donnelly, an academic layperson who has been critiqued for presenting testimony "riddled with errors" due to her ignorance and misunderstanding of research methods.

Anyway, isn't it interesting how the above vow is phrased?

The first clause: "Support for the enactment of safeguards for all married and unmarried US Military and National Guard personnel..."

Like, what does (or should) a person's marital status have to do with the enactment of harassment safeguards, especially since the vow isn't saying that only married people deserve these safeguards? It could have just said, "Support the enactment of safeguards for all US Military and National Guard personnel" and it would have the exact same meaning. Do they think they're extending some big huge olive branch to the Other Side for including people who dare to be unmarried into the category of people who also deserve certain safeguards?

It continues:

"...especially our combat troops, from inappropriate same-gender or opposite-gender sexual harassment, adultery or intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc)"

Now, I would certainly sign on to a statement in favor of sexual harassment safeguards. Just not this one. Because what is strange is why "especially our combat troops" (does this mean men only?) are singled out as being "especially" worthy of these safeguards. And, although I'm not entirely sure what an "attracted" is (is that even a real noun?), the statement appears to be saying that our combat troops shouldn't have to commingle with people who might be attracted to them. And, the "especially combat troops" statement seems to be Bigot Code for straight men shouldn't be forced to commingle with men who might be attracted to them.

As though rape in the military is primarily a thing that gay men inflict upon straight men.

This ongoing narrative of the Gay Military Predator is one of the most abhorrent things about Don't Ask Don't Tell, given the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, and bisexual military personnel whom heterosexuals have abused, harassed, and beaten because of their sexual orientations. And while I of course oppose both same-gender and mixed-gender sexual harassment, I find it incredibly unfortunate that this document remains silent about the reality that (a) LGB people are in the US military and are deserving of safeguards too.

Notice too that the document makes no mention of the safeguards that female troops, specifically, deserve against other military personnel. In fact, it just can't quite bring itself to say the word rape. Well, not until we start talking about Enemies, that is. The vow continues:

"plus prompt termination of military policymakers who would expose American wives and daughters to rape or sexual harassment, torture, enslavement or sexual leveraging by the enemy in forward combat roles."

Oh, okay, I guess we suddenly care about the rape of women again, now that Our Men or Our Troops aren't implicated in the carrying-out of such a thing. And, I guess we can't just call the female troops women? Like, the most important thing about them is that they're somebody's "wife" or "daughter"?

I'm not in favor of war or violent "solutions" to problems, but given that war is a reality, I think that (a) anyone who has the ability to serve in combat should be able to do so, regardless of gender, and (b) it is unfair and sexist to both men and women to assume that only men can and should handle the horrors of war (rape, torture, enslavement) and that women cannot and should not.

So two final, related notes.

1) Remember when commenter Bella said she personally doesn't know any social conservatives who view women as innocent frail beings and men as violent, sexual beasts, and that therefore I was full of shit? Well, Bella, meet the signees of this document. Signees of this document, meet Bella.

2) Remember how it's supposedly like 1500 times worse for feminists to ignore male-only combat roles than it is for politicians to continue opposing women in combat? Men's rights activists, meet the signees of this document. Signees of this document, meet men's rights activists.

Monday, July 18, 2011

About That Draft

Why are anti-feminists much harsher on feminists who ignore male-only Selective Service Registration than they are on the people who enacted the policy, who support it, and who oppose overturning it?

Just thought I'd continue that theme for one more day. And probably tomorrow too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Today's Non-News

The New York Times posted an article entitled "Gay marriage problem: What if you don't want to?"

Let me paraphrase it for you:

Some lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals want to get married. Others don't!

All of this, of course, is already incredibly obvious to anyone who doesn't think the gays download their consciousnesses, personalities, hopes, and dreams from the exact same Gay Hub.

And, of course, somewhere a bigot has just read this and is screaming, "See, the homosexuals don't even want to get married!!"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

When Bad Questions and Defensiveness Cut Off Conversation

In The Guardian, David Barnett asks: "Is science fiction sexist?"

He ponders this question after noting:

"Earlier this month Damien G Walter asked users to suggest the best novels in the genre, following on from the Guardian's special SF-slanted edition of its Saturday Review supplement.
The results went online last week, and displayed a great love for science fiction: more than 500 books, classic and contemporary, were suggested for inclusion. However, according to Seattle-based author Nicola Griffith, who did a bit of number-crunching on the stats, there's an overwhelming bias towards male authors.

'I scanned the Guardian comments – yes, all of them – and counted only 18 women's names. Eighteen. Out of more than 500,' she wrote in a blogpost at the weekend."

So, is science fiction sexist?

I think this is a poorly-worded question to ask and that, frankly, it's shitty of a man- who has a different stake in the answer than do women- to basically Just Put It Out There in so cavalier a manner.

For one, science fiction is a genre of fiction and not, say, a sentient being and therefore it is incapable of being sexist. (Although, if any genre was going to morph into a sentient being it would totes be science fiction, right?!). Yeah, it's a small point, but I abhor that sort of lack of clarity in writing. Like, who specifically, is the author asking is sexist? Publishers? Fans? Writers? All of them? Some of them?

I don't think it's wrong or bad to ask if something or someone(s) specifically is sexist, but to accuse a ginormous genre of sexism is going to provoke way more heat than genuine introspection and conversation.

So, instead, in light of an internet poll in which respondents "overwhelmingly" prefer male authors, I contend that what we need to be asking and discussing is:

1) Is this skewed ratio problematic?

2) What are the implications being drawn from such a poll? Are some using it as proof that male science fiction writers are inherently better than female writers? Are some using it as evidence that the respondents have a bias in favor of male writers?

3) How many of the respondents were male? How many were female?

4) How many of the respondents have been exposed to, are familiar with, and have read, science fiction written by women?

5) Do books written by men tend to be more readily classified as science fiction compared to books written by women? If so, could this skew the results?

6) Do science fiction fans tend to believe that male experiences represent a default human experience, while female experiences represent a specific gendered experience? If so, how could this attitude result in a bias against books written by and/or about women?

7) What is the ratio of male science fiction writers to female science fiction writers?

8) Are any male science fiction writers women, writing under male pseudonyms?

Barnett does raise a couple of these questions (which he does not answer) and then leaves it to the commentariat to discuss.

Unfortunately, as happens so often whenever people utter the s-word, many of the highly-rated comments were hyper-defensive reactions of the "how does participating in a poll make me sexist!?" type. Yeah, the author's question was poor, but suddenly, commenters weren't actually speaking all that reasonably and were instead angrily condemning gender quotas in science fiction, as though that was an option even on the table, and failing to seriously examine why respondents favored male writers.

Given how quickly so many people interpret "is this sexist?" to mean "you sexist asshole," it is clear that the burden remains on feminists and women to raise non-alienating questions that people who want to keep thinking of themselves as Nice People Who Definitely Don't Have Privilege Or Bias can handle.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

MRA Confuses Boundary-Setting With Assault Accusation

[TW: Discussion of sexual violence]

MRA writer Amy Alkon has her boxers in a twist over the Skepchick-Dawkins thingy.

You pretty much know how her piece is going to go down after reading the title:

"When Women Confuse Being Asked Out With Being Raped In An Elevator At Knifepoint"

Here are the facts on the ground: At 4 a.m. in an elevator, a man asked Skepchick out, while she was a single woman in a foreign country after she had just spoken about sexism in the skeptic community. In a video blog, she then advised men not to do that because it makes her uncomfortable.

So yeah.

Clearly the only ones suffering from confusion here are those who think Skepchich was accusing the man who asked her out of rape. That is clearly not the case. Although, I do think it's interesting to note how quickly critics of Skepchick are to conflate the two. I'm not sure what the disconnect is when men make that conflation, but I think it could be evidence of their shoddy view of male nature. For, watch how this alleged men's rights commentator characterizes men. Alkon claims:

"Men 'sexualize' women. Ladies, they want to have sex with you, your sister, your sister's friend, your sister's friend's friend, the cashier, the waitress, the lady with the big luscious ass who's crossing the street, and her sister and her sister's friend. If men weren't like this, the planet would be filled with plants and cockroaches instead of human beings."

As opposed to our current reality, where the world is populated by plants, cockroaches, human beings, and the sexually violent wildebeests known as "men," amIrite?

Seriously though, why is it that Teh Feminazi Cabal gets, like 1000% more shit for supposedly framing All Men As Sexual Aggressors, than do the people like Alkon, who are, instead, given editorial space in an MRA magazine to put forth that All Men Are Sexual Aggressors?

Also, what's interesting is how quickly Alkon goes from Skepchick's argument (Hey guys, don't ask me out when I'm alone with you in an elevator at 4 a.m., k?) to OMG the Earth Will Be Nothing But Roaches, Twinkies, and Tumbleweed if men stop asking women out in elevators at 4 am!!

I mean, seriously? It's all just so ironic that it's Teh Feminists who are framed as being over-the-top about all of this.

If you remember, prominent atheist Richard Dawkins got involved in the conversation by comparing Skepchick's complaint to the complaints of a hypothetical woman "Muslima," who, unlike Skepchick, apparently has Actual Serious And Legitimate Grievances. Yawn. That's about the oldest trick in the Trivializing Women's Concerns Handbook.

What is interesting is when we compare Dawkins' statement to Alkon's own suggestion to the ladies:

"If it is troubling to you to be sexualized, stay home, or only leave the house in a big black burka."

Of course.

Like I've said before. The situation in some fundamentalist religious cultures is a difference of degree, not of substance, with respect to the gender essentialism at play in some secular and atheist cultures. According to alleged commonsensical truth, men are hypersexual and unable to control their (sometimes violent) sexual impulses and, as a result, if women do not want to experience this male sexuality, women must restrict their own lives, freedoms, clothing, choices, and careers because it's just too gosh darn much to ask men to restrict their sexual entitlement.

Maybe one day MRAs will come to think better of man than his current definition as a being who cannot physically fathom women as anything other than penis receptables. Maybe one day, MRAs will stop their all-out attack not only on the feminists and women, but on men as well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

No Seriously, the Wimminz Can't Be Silenced in Gender Egalitarianism

So, there's a relatively new site called No Seriously, What About the Menz? (Tagline: "Who cares about men? We do.") The blog's purpose is to bring men back into feminism and discuss men's issues, making the title a reclamation of the What About the Menz?! internet meme that some feminists use when they perceive commenters to be re-centering men as a topical focus within conversation specifically about women.

I've been reading the blog for about a month and have some mixed thoughts. First and foremost, given that some men probably do feel alienated from some feminist blogs, that men also experience the world in a gendered way, and that men too are negatively affected by sex/gender stereotyping and assumptions, I think spaces for men (and women who agree with the premise that men are negatively harmed by sexism as well) to talk about gender issues in spaces that aren't, say, extremist MRA sites, are important.

Secondly, the site is a group blog and, accordingly, it would not be accurate to generalize it as being either monolithically pro-feminist or anti-feminist. Indeed, the "101/FAQs" section does a good job of creating nuance and recognizing that neither feminism, masculism, MRA-ism, or any other gender movement is monolithic.

Third, the tagline "Who cares about men? We do" in connection with the title's obvious allusion to the commenting policies of some feminist blogs implies that those who operate spaces specifically centered around women's issues don't care about men. I'm just not convinced that's the case and, in my opinion, the implication runs a little too close to the tired old "feminists just hate men" bit. (And isn't What About teh Menz?! as a meme kind of 2008? I still see the sentiment, but not so much that phrase used much anymore.)

Fourth, about that goal. If the blog aims to give men and men's issues a bigger role in feminism, presumably alongside feminists(?), I think it's really important that it doesn't, in turn, kick out women's concerns and/or feminists in a reverse replication of some feminist blogs' "What About The Menz" gender segregation. Not that I think the pieces should be women-centered, but a recent experience I had interacting at What About the Menz left me unclear as whether it was appropriate for commenters (women especially) to address sexism as it pertains to women, particularly if we believe some of the bloggers and commenters are engaging in this problematic behavior.

See, my fear about male-centric sites like these, especially when they are critical of feminists and feminism, is that they can end up silencing women's concerns and therefore end up replicating sexism and troubling patterns of interaction between men and women. For instance, when the feminist-friendly Good Men Project ran its series on MRAs, female feminist voices were largely silent (with the exception of Amanda Marcotte's) and certain problematic patterns emerged in the dialogue among the male anti-feminist, non-feminist, and MRA commenters that went largely unchallenged and unchecked.

When I tried to enter the Good Men Project conversation, the male commenters took a cue from the MRA posts in treating me, a female feminist, as an irrational, intellectual inferior of theirs no matter how rationally I stated my argument. In my civil commentary, they perceived aggression and took grave offense while their aggression and explicitly violent fantasies went unchecked.

Unfortunately, I had a recent, albeit milder, bout of that at the What About the Menz blog.

Doctormindbeam, a blogger there who describes himself as a "straight white American male" who isn't "part of the problem," wrote a post entitled "6%: Please Learn To Math [sic]", in which he called the feminist site Jezebel "a bunch of freaking idiots" for repeating a math error a Washington Post article had made about rape statistics. He did not call the writer at the non-feminist Washington Post an idiot for having originally made the mistake.

Citing mathematician John Allen Paulos, doctormindbeam then argued that many people are mathematically illiterate, which is a valid point. Many people do not understand statistics. Therefore, many people make mistakes in how they recite or read statistics, including rape statistics.

But from there, he went on to call Jezebel and The Washington Post's mathematical error an example of "hysteria." I would include his exact quote, but he seems to have deleted the offending phrase from his post instead of, say, striking a line through it and explicitly acknowledging that his word usage was problematic.

Nonetheless, his argument, at least in the piece as he originally wrote it, shifted. While he largely supported the argument that the rape statistic error was due to ignorance, he inexplicably then drew the conclusion that the rape statistic error was due to "hysteria," or excessive emotionality about the topic. There wasn't a clear logical line between his premises and his conclusion.

In the comments, I suggested that (a) due to him being more harsh on Jezebel than on non-feminist sources who made the exact same mistake and (b) due to his use of the gendered word "hysteria," his piece had sexist undertones and that his piece would have been better without them. Because this particular blogger is critical of feminism, I assumed he possessed a base level of knowledge about why, say, a feminist or a woman might object to the term "hysteria" in an article in which he demeans a feminist website for allegedly lying about rape statistics. So, I assumed that my criticism would mostly be a non-issue- an easy point for him to concede.

In my opinion, "hysteria" and "hysterical" when used negatively is as objectionable as bitch, cunt, dick, and prick used as slurs. So, after doctormindbeam initially brushed off my criticism by oddly suggesting that my criticism only revealed my "internal biases" against women, I bolstered my point by saying:

"You seem unaware of the fact that women and feminists are often described as hysterical, especially with respect to conversations about rape. That’s why I suggested your piece has sexist undertones. I think it would have been more accurate had you just stuck to your original theory that people just don’t get the math.

Word Origin & History:


1610s, from L. hystericus 'of the womb,' from Gk. hysterikos 'of the womb, suffering in the womb,' from hystera 'womb' (see uterus). Originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus'

'Hysteria' is a derivation of 'hysterical,' and given its etiology, it’s entirely reasonable to suggest that your usage of the term is problematic and conntes a relationship to women and feminists."

In response, doctormindbeam said that the phrase "hysteria" has a "gender egalatarian usage" in that these days it's used to describe both men and women so it's all good. He then added that I was "reading things between the lines that are not there," and that his usage of the word "hysteria" was what's called "artistic license."

Frankly, I was surprised that he wouldn't just concede the "hysteria" point to me. I hadn't called him names, certainly not the aggressive "freaking idiot" charge that he lobbed at everyone who writes at a major feminist site. I didn't call him sexist- I suggested that his word usage had sexist freaking undertones given its origins.

Things got more interesting when another commenter, one with an apparently male name, chimed in to add:

"...slightly different language choices might make [doctormindbeam's] article more accessible to others. At my own blog, this is a fine line we walk all the time: between holding feminists to the same intellectual standards as everyone else, and between not alienating feminist readers. I try to not give people with different views any additional reasons to try to dismiss and wriggle away from my conclusions."

Yeah, that's a really shitty, passive-aggressive implication that feminists are regularly below "everyone else's" intellectual standards, but his alienation point seemed similar to my own: The piece could have been better and more accessible (particularly to women) without the sexist undertones. Of this man's comment, doctormindbeam responded:

"@Hugh: A fair point. Thank you for your reasoned criticism :-)"

Blink blink.

You mean, as opposed to the lady feminist's irrational and hysterical criticism?


Another commenter, gender unknown to me at the time (but who I later learned is female), then said what I said:

"About hysteria: although it can in modern usage be used for both men and women, it is still disproportionately weilded against women, and when weilded against men implies femininity – more gender policing of what and how much emotion men are allowed to show....And, although I hope you know I value the work you do here, I think that your defense of 'artistic license' is severely problematic, as it is a standard defense given by people who say all kinds of misandrist, misogynist, racist, ableists, etc. things and don’t want to have to bother to think about their language and the way it affects people…

To which doctormindbeam responded:

"You have a fair point. Thanks for bringing that up."


Naturally, I recapped and made note of this disparity in doctormindbeam's receptivity and said:

"Very disappointing double standard here in your responses, doctormindbeam. You’ve been nothing but incredibly defensive about my points, which are remarkably similar to the points these two other commenters have made. I am very doubtful that my 'tone': has been out of line or that my reasoning has been faulty here."

It was truly inexplicable behavior to me. In all of my comments, I had taken the kid gloves off, but my tone was not out of line nor did I engage in name-calling or hateful speech. Nonetheless, doctormindbeam commanded:

"@fannie: You will observe the comment policy."

I'm not exactly thrilled with men ordering me what I "will" and will not do, but, you know, fine. His implication was that I was in violation of his blog's comment policy, something I did not want or intend to be. Only very rarely has another blogger accused me of being out of line, to point of threatening to ban me, because of my commentary. The couple times that has happened have been at virulently anti-gay sites where the mere presence, let alone commentary, of an Avowed Lesbian is enough to send some people toppling ass-over-heels onto their fainting couches.

So, I asked him how I was in violation of his policy.

Unfortunately, coming straight from the ol' "It's worse to call out sexist language than it is to use sexist language" department, doctormindbeam vaguely pointed me to this section of the comment policy:

"Commenters who [...] repeat the same point over and over again, who abuse contributors or other commenters, or who massively derail the thread from the post topic will be first warned, and then have their comments deleted."

At that point, I was done trying to interact with the guy. It seemed obvious that my biggest sin was not "abuse" or "massive derailment," pretty strong charges those, but that I had accused the author of writing a piece with sexist undertones against women- a point I repeated only because he failed to take me or my arguments seriously even though he quietly deleted the offending phrase.

So, yeah.

At this point, my piece of constructive criticism to the blog would be to clarify whether the space is a safe one for women and feminists to object to its bloggers and commenters engagement in possibly sexist behavior and language usage against women, or whether doing so constitutes a "massive derailment" from a Menz Blog.

The blog thus far seems to try to walk a fine gender egalitarian line and, well, if a blog is going aim to bring men back into feminist discussions, it will quickly become troubling to many women (and feminists and gender egalitarians) if the conversations replicate patterns of interaction between the genders that are problematic and hostile to women's concerns.

It will become apparent and problematic if male bloggers and commenters are held to a much more lenient standard of civility, aggression, and hostility than critical female and feminist commenters are.

It will become apparent if a double standard is created where, say, the space is safe for men to express their aggression (Jezebel is a "bunch-of-freaking-idiots") and sexist language against women, but where women who object to that sexist language are moderated and accused of "derailing."

Indeed, it took all of about two seconds before a commenter began accusing feminist critique as "What about teh wimminz?" derailing inappropriate for the forum.

So, for now, duly noted. Good thing we have our own blogs, I guess.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The "Gender Neutral Masculine's" Harm to Men

Because the use of the so-called "gender neutral masculine," whereby all humans are referred to as "men," invisibilizes girls and women and sometimes leads to inaccuracies and ambiguities in meaning, I regularly take issue with it here in Fannie's Room.

What I have considered less is how the "gender neutral masculine" can be a detriment to men by invisibilizing how men, like women, live a gendered life experience. I quote Adam Jones in Journal of Human Rights:

"A Canadian reading an account of the horrific massacre of 14 young women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal (1989) would be surprised and probably offended to see the victims -- or their male attacker -- referred to as 'Quebeckers' or 'students' or 'young people' [and the gender of the victims and perpetrator not mentioned]. But for male victims, displacement of the gender variable is rather the rule. 'The male is defined by some trait or label other than gender -- even when gender obviously, or apparently, is decisive in shaping the experience or predicament being described' (Jones 2001)."

Jones goes on to cite an epidemic of murdered cab drivers in New York City and how reports failed to mention that all of those murdered were male, instead reporting the victims' geographic locations and occupations. Thus, he concludes, the "victims remain invisible as men."

While I agree with his ultimate conclusion in the piece, unfortunately, Jones fails to clearly articulate (what I see as) the primary reason for this invisibilization of the murder victims' gender: The human norm and the male norm, in our society, are collapsed into one and are seen as identical. The gender of the cab drivers was not mentioned in the article because it is taken as a given that they were male. Had they been female, that is- a deviation from the human norm- the cab drivers' gender would have been noted and gender-based explanations would have been sought for the crimes.

Indeed, Jones himself notes that "'Gender' has standardly been deployed in the human rights discourse to designate rights violations that target women and girls"- the implication being that women and girls experience gender in some unique way while men and boys do not.

So, while Jones argues that media accounts render male victims "invisible as men," I would argue that if gender isn't mentioned, we can usually assume the humans in question are men. What is problematic about the "gender neutral masculine," then, is
that it implies that a man's gender is irrelevant to the media account.

And yet, gender is not irrelevant to the story. Men are, for some reason, more often cab drivers than are women. And, I'm guessing that reason has less to do with men being better drivers than women and more to do with the hazards associated with that job.

So, I agree with Jones' ultimate conclusion:

"Examining the scale and character of the challenges and threats confronting men will be extremely difficult until the gender variable assumes greater prominence in the analytical equation."

As a society, we need to be better at recognizing that men and boys (a) experience gender in a unique way, as a result of the gendered roles, stereotypes, and responsibilities that are placed upon them, and (b) that, therefore, men and boys do not experience the world in a generic, "universally human" way.

Jones takes "feminist scholars and activists" to task for the "downplaying or ignoring of men's gendered suffering," and I do think some of his criticism is deserved. At the same time, it is cheap and easy to single out feminists, of all existing political groups, as being primarily responsible for this scenario instead of giving the social conservative, gender essentialist, military-industrialist, and the religious right activists who assert that women are frail, innocent beings while men are expendable, violent wildebeests their fair share of the criticism.

Gendered language shapes our minds and the way we think about the world. Men and boys will not be seen in our society as en-gendered until we stop using the same words to signify male humans that we do to signify generic humanity.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Leftist Gender Warrior Approves!

I love this.

Via The Mary Sue:

"When invited to a birthday party whose theme required that the boys dress as superheroes and the girls as princesses, dad Jay C. Batzner came up with an awesome compromise that simultaneously stomped on the face of gender normativity and made his daughter happy. Wonder Woman, both a princess and a superhero, had long been Daria’s favorite hero, so he sewed her this costume. We think this might be one of those steps to raising kickass daughters."

Not only does the girl subvert gender stereotypes by going as a superhero, the dad does by sewing her costume!

Bonus points for her name being Daria.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood

[This post is part of a blog carnival, called My Planned Parenthood, which is hosted by What Tami Said and Shakesville. This series is "devoted to sharing the stories of the women and men helped by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and other Planned Parenthood branches."]

When I was 22, I received my first Pap test. It was at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Midwest. I was uninsured, a recent college graduate, and a lesbian.

Given the, erm, intimate nature of the exam and horror stories I had heard of other lesbian and bisexual women who discussed their sexual orientation openly with insensitive pap-smearers, I was a bit apprehensive. Although I have sinced learned that women who have sex with women are less likely than heterosexual women to have had pap smears due to a lack of insurance, previous bad experiences with providers, and a mistaken belief that one doesn't need the exam if one isn't having sex with men, back then I was still overcoming some internalized homophobia.

I didn't know yet that I deserved medical care from doctors and nurses who wouldn't condemn my "lifestyle choice." I thought it was okay for medical providers to alienate patients who deviated from some hypothetical Default Patient.

Due to my finances, Planned Parenthood was my only option at the time for getting the dreaded Pap test and so I scheduled my appointment and hoped for the best. In the days before my appointment I tried to build up courage by telling myself that maybe being a lesbian at a place that provides abortions might be, like, a relatively minor shenanigan? (I also had internalized a lot of anti-choice rhetoric, too).

So, the day of my appointment, after making my way past three abortion protestors and their gruesome signs, I entered the lobby and began filling out the intake forms. Although this was a good decade ago, I remember that the forms asked me whether I had sex with men, women, or both. Not only is this information pertinent to gynecological exam, but I found it refreshing and validating that it was not assumed that all patients engaged in heterosexual sex.

Then, when I told the nurse who did my initial screening that I was sexuall active, she asked me what sort of birth control I was using. Unfortunately, she did not seem to have read my answers on the form. I told her that I wasn't using birth control since I was in a relationship with a woman. She seemed flustered, perhaps because it was obvious she hadn't read my form, but then said something along the lines of, "Well, that's okay. Just make sure you clean the sex toys" and proceeded to give me safe sex tips.

It wasn't a perfect interaction, but it wasn't a traumatic one either. In fact, she raised good points about the need for women who have sex with women to think about STI risk. I'm not sure that I knew, at 22, that such risks existed. And, in turn, I like to think that I reminded the nurse that, yes, non-heterosexual patients too utilize Planned Parenthood. I'll take that over judgmental bigotry any day.

Because of Planned Parenthood, I developed a healthier relationship with the US medical system, a system that I had thought was not entirely open to me because of my income and sexual orientation. Because of Planned Parenthood, I am now a healthier person.

Why I'm A Feminist

So, I can relate to this.

Long story short: A man follows a woman, Rebecca Watson, into an elevator at 4 a.m. after she has just spoken at a conference in which she discussed misogyny in the atheism movement. The woman posts a video on her blog, wherein she asks men not to do that. Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, and a multitude of commenters, asserts that there are Far More Important Things for people to worry about than this and Will Somebody Please Think Of The Muslim Women?

Sexism, you see, is a thing that Other Men Do. And, well, us Western Ladies should just STFU and be incredibly grateful that our men let us vote and work and go to school.

Of her experience, Rebecca Watson notes:

"When I started this site, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had a hazy idea that feminism was a good thing, but it was something that other people worried about, not me. I was living in a time and culture that had transcended the need for feminism, because in my world we were all rational atheists who had thrown off our religious indoctrination so that I could freely make rape jokes without fear of hurting someone who had been raped.

...So here we are today. I am a feminist, because skeptics and atheists made me one. Every time I mention, however delicately, a possible issue of misogyny or objectification in our community, the response I get shows me that the problem is much worse than I thought, and so I grow angrier."

I am a small fry in the world of blogging. Yet I, like Watson, did not start this blog strongly identifying as a feminist or with the intentions of this blog turning into a platform where I would "talk about feminism. A lot."

As late as 2007, I think I was still operating under the assumption that Most Decent Left-Leaning Folks were feminists or, if not explicitly identifying themselves as feminists, would deal with sexism and misogyny allegations with grace, self-reflection, and good intentions.

Lulz, I know, right?

I am a feminist, like Rebecca, because skeptics and atheists made me one.

As did conservatives, obviously, but also liberals, Democrats, libertarians, communists, socialists, gay male bloggers, anti-racist bloggers, and other people I previously had assumed were "natural allies" to feminism who would at least be receptive to, or hell even willing to engage with, feminist arguments.

Whether liberal guys were declaring breast ogling to be non-problematic for women, telling women to watch their tone with how they respond to rape culture, or bailing Julian Assange out of jail whilst ordering feminists to not be "naive" about "official" narratives, I quickly learned as a blogger that, for many people within these movements, gender issues were subordinate to the Real Issues.

I became a feminist because many men (and some women) within male-dominated political and social movements are united in their belief that women's and gender issues drag down "their" movements- a reflection of an anxious worldview wherein feminism mostly represents a hysterical, hyper-politically-correct war on men, boys, and masculinity.

I have no idea what the numbers are of those within left-leaning movements who are also feminists. Yet, judging by the many responses in left-leaning spaces that feminists regularly get when we bring up sexism, rape, or misogyny in spaces that do not regularly address these topics, a substantial chorus seems to believe that because Women In Certain (Usually Muslim) Hellholes Have Things So Much Worse, feminism is irrelevant to the Western World.

And yet, when we consider what happened, these taunters only demonstrate feminism's necessity. Remember, all Watson said was that she didn't want men to proposition her in elevators at 4 a.m. after she had just given a lecture about misogyny.

She was attempting to set a clear boundary, asking men to respect that boundary.

It was a small thing, really. A simple request, and an important one to the woman who made it.

But for that, non-feminists within the atheist movement angrily exaggerated her position and ridiculed her. People trivialized her experience and, in various forms, expressed the opinion that women can't or shouldn't expect to have their boundaries respected, that it's unrealistic, or self-centered, or man-hating, or what-have-you.

Given that many people who dominate the left cannot handle the small things, how on earth do they expect us, the so-called special interests, to trust them with the Big Things their movements purport to address?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Religion-Based Affirmative Action Programs For Men

Check out this flyer for a Baptist conference featuring lots of totally diverse speakers.

Fun fact: The group that is putting on this conference has certain articles of faith.

These articles of faith make a clear distinction between men and women, saying, "WE BELIEVE that men and women are spiritually equal in position before God but that God has ordained distinct and separate spiritual functions for men and women in the home and the church."

These articles of faith recite the word "man" 8 times, "men" 5 times, "mankind" 2 times, "he" 15 times, "him" 6 times, "father" 3 times, and "son" 7 times.

These articles of faith recite the word "woman" 2 times, "women" 2 times, "womankind" 0 times, "she" 0 times, "her" 0 times, "mother" 1 time, and "daughter" 1 time.

Takeaway: Men and women are totally, definitely spiritually equal beings before God, but more equal are the beings who possess the sword of the lord.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tales From the Matriarchy

[TW: Misogyny, gender essentialism, male supremacism]

In her collection of critical essays To Write Like A Woman, Joanna Russ articulated that really crappy anti-feminist science fiction is often characterized by an incoherent "collapse of a gynocracy that is both impressively powerful and totally incompetent." The collapse of the gynocracy, she noted of these stories, usually came about after a Traitor Woman found herself seduced by a man possessing a Sacred Phallic Object.

Let's just keep that theme in mind.

I recently stumbled upon a bizarre "Manifesto for Conscious Women" written by the husband-wife team of John Cole and Mary Allen, who seem to run a kind of New Agey life coach site. The manifesto is a reaction to the "Manifesto for Conscious Men," a manifesto also deserving of critique, but which I'm not gong to touch on today.

Anyway, while John apparently wrote the first draft of this "Manifesto For Conscious Women," "together" the duo allegedly "shaped it" into a form that they submitted to The Huffington Post. Now, I know what you're thinking. Why wouldn't a man write a manifesto that is purportedly coming from women? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, HuffPo apparently rejected the manifesto for publication, indicating that stuff might have gone wrong. But don't you worry, dear readers, I ain't afraida no anti-feminism here. For, every time an anti-woman/anti-feminist piece is rejected for being not a good fit at a progressive blog, an anti-feminist becomes further entrenched in the conviction that the PC Police are just too scared of their awesome intellectual ability to Tell It Like It Really Is.

For, John and Mary start:

"We’re now sharing the Manifesto at my Everyday Inner Peace blog, because one of the biggest keys to inner peace is recognizing and acknowledging reality 'as it is.' We may like reality or we may be repulsed by reality. Regardless, 'seeing clearly' is where sanity begins." (emphasis in original)

Below, I've highlighted some of the most...interesting snippets of John's (oh, and Mary's) manifesto from women to men.

You will notice, first, that this manifesto is premised upon the assumption that the class "Woman" is a ginormous, bitchy, powerful, incompetent monolith, meaning that each individual woman is responsible for, and therefore must apologize for, the wrongs that any other woman in the world has ever inflicted upon a man.

Yet, men, too, are also presented as a monolith. A quite awesome one at that, wherein the Great Achievements of some men are a reflection of the greatness of each individual man. Men are incredibly competent, but mysteriously they lack power in our modern-day matriarchy. You'll see what I mean:

"[As a woman to men,] I honor you for giving me a voice in shaping society through the right to vote. I apologize for bringing my instincts for security over freedom into politics and eroding America’s freedom by pushing socialist policies that are bankrupting this country."

LOL. Thanks guys for letting us ladies vote! Sorry that we actually vote.

It continues:

"[As a woman to men,] I honor you for creating millions of jobs through enterprise, ingenuity and hard work. Thank you for inviting me to work beside you. I apologize for disrupting the workplace. I apologize for bringing my hypergamous instincts and provocative dress into the workplace, thereby disordering what was once a well functioning and highly productive male hierarchy. I apologize for introducing sexual harassment policies that destroy workplace cohesion.

What John and Mary call "what was once a well functioning and highly productive male hierarchy," I call a "gigantic affirmative action program for men in white collar and many blue collar professions that was sustained by the stifled potential of women."

Implicit in this complaint is a longing for a return to all-male professional environments where men don't have to compete with women as equals. Also, notice the essentialist assumption that men are incapable of viewing women as anything other than sex objects and are, therefore, entitled to professionally bond with other men over this view of women.

The manifesto continues:

"[As a woman to men,] I acknowledge that boys and girls have different learning styles and we have radically shifted education to support girls. I realize how important men are as teachers and I apologize for driving men out of the teaching industry on fears of pedophilia accusations. I apologize to little boys for subjecting them to a feminized education experience that impedes learning, denigrates men and drives them out of higher education.

[As a woman to men,] I honor you for wanting to fully develop your mind so you can maximize your contribution to humanity. I apologize for watering down the high-stakes, high-abstraction, high difficulty standards boys thrive on in exchange for the low difficulty continuous assessment that favors girls. I apologize for all the boys that would be valedictorians if intelligence mattered rather than the ability to perform mind-numbing tasks....

I appreciate men for creating room for me in higher education. I apologize for squandering society’s scarce higher education resources. I apologize for using affirmative action laws to exclude a better qualified man from the first-rate graduate program and then quitting my 'career' after only a few years in business."

Isn't it funny to watch the "equality means equal opportunity, not equal outcomes" crowd scramble to deal with statistics that show girls have better outcomes than boys at stuff?

Taking it as self-evident statement of truth that male and female humans have vast biological differences with respect to intelligence wherein of course male humans are our intellectual superiors, many anti-feminists and MRAs cannot even fathom that girls might be doing better in school and college because girls are smarter or more competent than boys on average.

Not that that's what I necessarily think. Rather, my point is that it's indicative of some serious male supremacist assumptions when gender essentialists who so readily leap to non-essentialist explanations for when men or boys have negative outcomes, completely reject non-essentialist explanations when girls or women have negative outcomes.

Indeed, here, John/Mary take it as a given that So Many Boys would be valedictorians instead of girls, if only schools measured intelligence instead of a student's so-called ability to perform "mind-numbing tasks," if affirmative action policies didn't favor girls, and if boys didn't have to endure a "feminized education experience."

Given the individual variation that exists within each gender with respect to what types of teaching work best, it would be more helpful to both boys and girls if we stopped stereotyping certain ways of learning and teaching as "masculine" and "feminine." As we see in John/Mary's piece, the "feminine" way of learning and teaching, and girls and women by extension, invariably get denigrated as inferior whenever a comparison is made to "masculinity."

It continues:

"I acknowledge how virtually every show on TV portrays men as bumbling idiots while portraying women as smart, when the facts show much the opposite."


Many TV shows do portray men as "bumbling idiots." That's not okay. But John? Mary? Ya lost me when you assert that it's a "fact" that it's actually women who are the "bumbling idiots."

The whole thing is really quite a fantastic reverse projection of what, I believe, many anti-feminists and MRAs believe feminism to be: an assertion of the supremacy of one sex and the denigration of another.

For, the manifesto's ironic parting shot:

"[As a woman to men,] I promise not to confuse honoring women with denigrating men. I promise not to think less of myself for acknowledging men. We all have gifts and strengths and no one deserves preferential worship."

Oh. Okay then.

Joanna Russ, concluded her critique of anti-feminist science fiction by noting, "I think it is clear by now that these stories are not only not written for women; they are not written about women. To quote Michael Korda, in Male Chauvinism: 'Men as a rule don't hate [women]....They just don't want to know anything about them." Women are merely "drafted as a permanent class of worshippers."

Likewise, this manifesto is, literally, not written for women.

It is a document purportedly from women to men. Aside from making tangential appearances as the Extremely Powerful-Yet-Totally-Incompetent Ruiners Of Everything, the document is not really about women either. It is primarily a vehicle in which men can observe women oberving men's amazing, supreme awesomeness.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Of Course She Is

What, you thought Roseanne Barr wouldn't run for President?

In all seriousness, I started following her blog after her deliciously scathing New York Magazine article. A snippet:

"My breakdown deepened around the fourth episode, when I confronted the wardrobe master about the Sears, Roebuck outfits that made me look like a show pony rather than a working-class mom. I wanted vintage plaid shirts, T-shirts, and jeans, not purple stretch pants with green-and-blue smocks. She bought everything but what I requested, so I wore my own clothes to work, thinking she was just absent-minded. I was still clueless about the extent of the subterfuge.

Eventually she told me that she had been told by one of Matt’s producers—his chief mouthpiece—“not to listen to what Roseanne wants to wear.' This producer was a woman, a type I became acquainted with at the beginning of my stand-up career in Denver. I cared little for them: blondes in high heels who were so anxious to reach the professional level of the men they worshipped, fawned over, served, built up, and flattered that they would stab other women in the back. They are the ultimate weapon used by men against actual feminists who try to work in media, and they are never friends to other women, you can trust me on that."

In addition to Darlene Conner being one of my all-time fave characters, I appreciated Roseanne as a kid because the characters were much like the unapologetically fat, working-class Midwestern white people that I actually knew in real life.

And, of course, Sandra Bernhard's portrayal of a lesbian was the first time I saw a gay character in a series who wasn't relegated to One Special Non-Recurring Episode About A Gay Person.