Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Special" Health Concerns

The NIH's "health screening" page for men aged 18-39:

"All adults should visit their health care provider from time to time, even if they are healthy. The purpose of these visits is to:
Screen for diseases
Assess risk of future medical problems
Encourage a healthy lifestyle
Update vaccinations
Maintain a relationship with a doctor in case of an illness"

The NIH's "women's health checkup" page:

"Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment are better. As a woman, you need some special exams and screenings. During your checkup, your health care provider will usually do:

A pelvic exam - an exam to check if internal female organs are normal by feeling their shape and size.

A Pap test - a test to check for cancer of the cervix, the opening to a woman's uterus. Cells from the cervix are prepared so they can be seen under a microscope.

A clinical breast exam - to check for breast cancer by feeling and looking at your breasts.

Your health care provider may also recommend other tests, including a mammogram or a test for HPV."(emphasis added)

Because unlike all adults, women, being women, have special health needs. As opposed to men, who have Ken doll privates and, thus, possess no need for learning about HPV, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, hernias, or even breast cancer.

Seriously though, many men are incredibly resistant to admitting that men are treated as the default human being. And yet, this "men are human while women are women" narrative seems to operate as both a blessing and a curse for them.

Oftentimes, the word "gender" implies "woman, a variation of the human norm." Men are de-sexed, as though gender, gender roles, stereotyping, and disease have absolutely no gendered impact on men as men.

In this way, women are presented as Other, our deviations from the male norm presented as "special." Meanwhile, men's experiences as men are either treated as some sort of universal human norm and, absurdly, erased as being in any way relevant to sex or gender.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sex-ay Sportz Lessons!

[Content/trigger warning: Sexism]

So, Noel S. Williams writing at the American Thinker wants to teach the lady feminists about sportz stuff?

He begins:

"Feminists are getting their panties in a twist because women's sports garner more attention by costuming beautiful athletes in sexy garb."

Annnnnd right away we know not to take Williams seriously. He says "panties in a twist."

What I've learned from Internet Feminism is that whenever dudes use that phrase in response to feminist critique it's code for, "Look here ladypeople, I'm a man. Sure, I don't experience sexism in the way that you, women, experience sexism. And sure, I don't know much about feminism, but I'm here to dismiss and minimize your lived experiences with sexism. Because I'm a man. And I know things. Better than you. And plus, I get boners at hawt ladies. So chill out."

And so he sayeth:

"Consider the wildly popular Lingerie Football League (LFL). Attendance is up, and the league is expanding, despite uproar from women's groups who claim that it's sexist. It probably is, but who cares? Men are the contented 'victims,' delighted to splash the cash as the ladies laugh all the way to the bank.

Feminist writer Courtney Martin denounced the LFL as an example of '[o]bjectification at its most pernicious.' So what?" (emphasis added)

Consider the fauxbjective ego-centrism of the male anti-feminist.

He doesn't see anything wrong with women pervasively being seen as mere objects of the hetero male gaze. Sure, it might be sexist to women. But so what? A man's experience is apparently the sun around which all experiences and harms revolve, so can we think of the men here? If he isn't harmed, then nobody is harmed. And plus, men are actually the real victims here. Indeed they're such victims that dudes like Williams have to put scare quotes around the word "victim" to illustrate that point.

Also suspect is that he litters his piece with several statements that contradict the underlying premise of his piece:

"For sure, sexism deserves our utter contempt, but...."

"Make no mistake: where sexism is proven, the penalty should be harsh."

"Sexism is intolerable..."

LOL. Sure, Sport.

Doesn't he protest just a teensy bit too much? It's almost like he forgot that he began his piece by saying:

"Consider the wildly popular Lingerie Football League (LFL). Attendance is up, and the league is expanding, despite uproar from women's groups who claim that it's sexist. It probably is, but who cares?"

Allow me to fix his statements so that his narratives fail to collide:

"For sure, sexism deserves our utter contempt, but [men get boners sometimes, and when they do, sexism is okay.]"

"Make no mistake: where sexism is proven, the penalty should be harsh. [but it's not sexism if it causes boners.]"

"Sexism is intolerable, [but boners that don't get to happen are even more intolerable]"

I mean seriously. The only purpose these "sexism is wrong" statements serve in a piece dedicated to trivializing sexism against women is to attempt to magically make the piece less problematic.

Moving on, several moments of Illusory Superiority were amusing. Like this sentence:

"Reflexively condemning as sexist those who cheer feminine aesthetics in sport undermines the splendor of modern feminism."

LOL @ your word salad.

Unfortunately, I'm not convinced this Williams dude knows enough about "modern feminism" to be able to render an informed critique of it, much less ascertain its "splendor." WeverTF he means by that I'm almost certain it's a "I'll call you fun feminist ladies hawt if you don't call me sexist for watching Lingerie Football" trade-off.

And then there's something interesting math. He cites the following numbers in an attempt to demonstrate how people, meaning "men," Just Like Watching Men's Sports More Than Women's Sports:
"Last men's World Cup: about 49,000 (for 64 games)
Last women's World Cup: about 26,000 (only 26 games)"

Like, those parentheses are his own and he still didn't see how his "evidence" fails to support his contention. (How do these bros get gigs writing at "American Thinker" anyway?)

And lastly, we can observe a predictably... simple view of humanity. Take:

"Indeed, many female athletes are proud of their appearance. And why not? They worked hard to attain peak physical shape, and unlike modern feminists in all their splendor, they are not inhibited by feminist orthodoxy."

Oh look, it's that bizarre "splendor" thing popping up again. Weird. But also notice how he assumes that the categories "female athletes" and "modern feminists" are mutually exclusive.

Kind of like his categories "sports fans" and "women":

"Frankly, most sports fans are men. And most would agree with Blatter's observation that "[f]emale players are pretty." If it helps promote women's soccer, as it does other women's sports like tennis, what's wrong with the new generation of feminist athletes showing off their assets? "

Notice, of course, no citations and no references to which specific sports he's referring to, just blanket generalization that erases all female sports' fans and all of the athletes who don't conform to the hetero-male-gaze-defined "pretty."

Because, under this Totally Not At All Sexist View Of Sportz, even if 52% of "sports fans" are men and 48% are women, it's 100% okay to alienate women sports' fans who maybe don't want to see other women babeified and female athletes who don't conform to the conventional beauty standards dictated by the all-important, always-catered-to hetero male gaze.

Because boners. Har har har. Boners apparently make sexism against women a trivial matter.

Whatever, Sport.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Ignorance of an Anti-Gay Christian

Liability-to-the-Marriage-Defense-Movement Ken Hutcherson opines in a Q&A about same-sex marriage:

"Q: Why should Buddhists, atheists, and non-Christians care about the marriage issue?

A: Who says they do? The issue at hand is what God has asked Christians to do. Our biggest challenge is to get Buddhists, atheists and non-Christians to see the problem when they don’t know what the Bible says."


I'm a Buddhist-leaning non-Christian agnostic precisely because (a) I know what the Bible says and (b) I see how people like Ken Hutcherson wield it as a weapon, using it not to overcome prejudice, hatred, and bigotry, but to justify these human failings.

I'm not alone there.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy Barfentine's Day!

[Content/Trigger Warning: fat shaming, gender policing]

I think what's most amusing about conservative men who advocate for "traditional gender roles" is how utterly corny, trite, and "one size fits all" their ideas of Heterosexual Romance are.

Which makes sense.

When dude thinks most men are inherently non-romantic juvenile sex fiends and that most women are sexually-repressed mommy-wives whose idea of the Perfect Valentine's Day is to receive chocolates, a card, and flowers followed by a night of cuddles by candlelight, there just aren't many narratives available for him to come up with something more... tailored to actual people's actual interests.

Not that the above scenario is unappealing to all women. But to think that's what all, or even most, women want just because they're women and that's what women want? Kind of clueless and lazy.

See, when a man is limited by his own refusal to recognize the reality that few people's hopes, desires, sex drives, and ideas of romance fit tidily into "pink" and "blue" boxes, his advice by necessity is going to be "one size fits all." But, in reality, one size never fits all.

So what ends up happening is that dude tries to write an advice column to The Ladies that ends up being as resonate as a group of drunk, white Republican men engaging in what the kids call "rapping" on stage at cocktail hour after their panel on "blah" people and welfare.

Take our friend Playful Walrus (PW), who took a break from pecking out another anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, anti-union, anti-poor, pro-rich, pro-corporate screeds (Just Like Jesus Would Do!) to write a "handy-dandy" guide on how the [heterosexual married] ladies can make Valentine's Day enjoyable for their husbands, all of whom apparently hate the holiday.

He begins, by of course explaining things to the ladypeople:

"There are many reasons why most men do not enjoy Valentine's Day.

Men tend to be practical when it comes to money. You expect him to blow money on overpriced chocolates, flowers, jewelry, gifts, dinners in crowded restaurants, hotel rooms, etc."

Oh we do, do we?

Scratch that. Of course PW isn't talking about women like me. (Whisper: The homosexualist kind). He's talking about The Real Women. The heterosexuals.

That being said, here's a little newsflash: Banal marketing aimed at women during Valentine's Day isn't necessarily a reflection of women's actual expectations surrounding this holiday.

He continues, not only are all women apparently entitled, superficial gold-diggers, we're fat, and therefore don't deserve chocolate anyway:

"Chocolates? They'll be gone soon, and frankly, most American women don't need the extra calories. That's a fact, since 2/3rds are overweight and half of those are obese."

Indeed, a man's just better off buying his bride from overseas. Where the women don't sit around eating whole boxes of chocolates all day long while he's at work. And as for flowers?

"They'll be dried and withered soon."

*sad trombone*

Speaking of things that are suddenly "dried and withered" after reading this post, PW's views on sexual obligations sound... really... swell (#Ohdearhispoorwife):

"Men show they love their woman year-round by paying the bills, by protecting her, and by doing many other things, often including lifting heavy objects, opening things, reaching for things, removing scary things, doing fix-its on the home and vehicles. Do you show your love for him by respecting him, keeping yourself together, keeping his stomach full, making love to him as often as he wants it without dropping things he enjoys off of the menu, being a smart shopper, and doing domestic chores (if he is the breadwinner)? These things may not be important to you, but they are likely important to him." (emphasis added)

Okay. Gross.

The more unthinking accounts and "how-to guides" of "traditional marriage" I read, the more they sound like planted PR campaigns against marriage and heterosexuality.

Under PW's view of proper hetero relations, men essentially buy sex and housekeeping from their wives by being the "breadwinner." PW tosses the word "love" around, but he doesn't seem to be talking about love. What he is talking about is a commercial exchange of goods and services.

Under this view of marriage, a man doesn't want in equal partner in life, he wants a domestic/sex worker who he deserves things from because of all his hard work. Andrea Dworkin famously noted that, "[Right-wing women] see that traditional marriage means selling [sex] to one man, not hundreds: the better deal." PW's version of marriage seems to be a case in point of marriage as an exchange rather than a partnership.

Happy Valentine's Day! *Swoon*

You know, in my experience interacting with conservatives, many of them have a certain worldview regarding How The World Is that they insist is some sort of "universally generalizable" truth for all people for all of history. This view often posits that men are the breadwinners who pay bills, protect their wives, lift heavy stuff and, in return, deserve blow jobs from their no-fun wives whenever they get boners.

Any actual women, men, and relationships in the real world who deviate from this worldview- gay men, lesbians, trans* people, heterosexuals in egalitarian relationships, gender non-conformists- are dismissed as strange anomalies from reality, too few in number to count. Inauthentic. If one points out the existence of these "deviations" from the conservative worldview, one is frequently accused of making these experiences up as part of a Marxist-Feminist plot against "reality." As though our very existences are not a part of reality.

It's quite something, really. To deny and erase the existence and experiences of millions of people who have different experiences with gender and marriage just because it doesn't fit into one's romanticized narrative of how the world is and how amaaaaaaaayzing man-woman marriage is for all people everywhere ever in history.

I mean, I have no doubt that for some people, these "traditional" performances of gender and marriage work and exist. But I am equally confident that that for lots of other people, this traditional gender narrative is completely subverted, completely abusive, and that there's lots of gray area in between. And that's okay to acknowledge. People don't have to have the same experience with marriage and gender. How is it even reasonable to insist or expect that they would?

Why acknowledging that reality is met with such resistance I have no idea.


For some reason, PW puts a parting shot in very small print and parentheses at the end of his post. Like he doesn't have the courage to fully commit to the assholery it contains:

"(There are unfeminine women reading this scoffing that anyone still believes in gender roles. I guarantee you they are not making any man's Valentine's Day enjoyable.)"

LOL. Okay, playa.

Like many an anti-feminist, PW does not seem to understand his ideological opponents. He certainly doesn't understand feminist critique. Therefore, it's understandable as to why he would think that only "unfeminine" women would be "scoffing" at his post, as opposed to, say, lots of women of varying degrees of femininity. I laugh at the strawdyke version of his critics that must be dancing around his uninspired noggin.

His ignorance also explains why he can't even articulate what it is that his critics would "scoff" at regarding his post. What does it even mean to "believe in gender roles"? He thinks we don't "believe in" them? We're not talking about Santa Claus here. Sigh.

Lastly, his ignorance allows him to operate under the assumption that his critics, presumably feminists, would think it's a Big Time Insult to be told that we're not sufficiently enjoyable, feminine, and hawt to heterosexual men.

As though he, via Internet Telepathy, can not only ascertain our femininity levels, beauty, sexual skillz, and worth as human beings, but that he is also the Big Decider of what is and isn't enjoyable to all men on Earth.


The biggest failing of so many anti-feminists isn't that they're assholes, which many of them indeed are, but that they so utterly fail at understanding feminism or what it is they're even objecting so strenuously to.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What's Better Than Winning The Beauty Contest?

Not being forced into it in the first place.

[Content/Trigger Warning: body shaming, gender policing]

I've written before on the various body-shaming, gender-policing memes, often spread on sites like Facebook, that go something along the lines of "real women have curves, not the body of a 12-year-old boy."

A more recent version of this meme depicts various famous women who are skinny, contrasts them with other famous women (like Marilyn Monroe) who have have curvier bodies, and says some variation of: "this [arrow pointing to curvier-bodied women] is more attractive than this [arrow pointing to skinnier-bodied women]."

So, yeah. Gross.

What this body-shaming reminds me of are those memes where conservative women denigrate the looks of liberal/feminist women in order to prop up their own status, stripping other women of their beauty and reinforcing the notion that a woman's most important feature is her sexual appeal to men.

Likewise do these Skinny Women Are Ugly memes arbitrarily strip some women of their beauty in order to enhance the standing of a different group of women.

Both instances accept, rather than reject, the premises that (a) a woman's most important feature are her looks and (b) that there is one true way to a beautiful real woman.

Via Jenny David at at Cyborgology, discussing the Skinny Women meme:

"As Heather Cromarty posted over at Sociological images, these memes pit women against each other in antagonistic comparison, and reinforce male approval as the pinnacle of female success. Rather than escape the male gaze, these attempts at feminist liberation work only to reformulate the desirable ends towards which women control their bodies. In short, the female body continues to be an apparatus of (heterosexual)male pleasure."

I can appreciate fat acceptance and the rejection of conventional beauty standards. Unfortunately, that's not what is going on with the Skinny Women Are Ugly memes.

Rather, the meme has always struck me as instances of uncritical, approval-seeking "You go girl!" fauxminism designed not to empower women, but to divide us and cement our status as the submissive sex class. The big take-away from such narratives, especially when they collide with the pervasive fat-shaming narratives circulating in society, is that if you are a woman and you have a body, you can never be good enough, authentic enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, curvy enough, or pleasing enough to the all-important hetero male gaze.

No thanks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So, You Want To Teach the Lady Feminists?

[Just because it's come up a few times in comments recently, LOL.]

Let me guess.

You are a man who knows things. You know things about sexism against women. And, you know these things better than women do.

Sure, you haven't actually lived as a woman and thus might not experience sexism against women in the way that women experience it, but still. You know some women and feel confident that the women you know adequately represent all of womankind.

And plus, you're a man. Who knows things. So, at the very least, you think someone needs to play Devil's Advocate to all the brainwashed "Women's Studies" set.

And sure, some might say that, as a man you might have a conflict of interest when it comes to perpetuating certain stereotypes about women, but still. Why wouldn't your voice be more objective, reasoned, and neutral than any woman's here? Right?

And sure, you personally haven't ever read any actual, complete works by Friedan, Woolf, hooks, MacKinnon, Dworkin, Davis, de Beauvoir, Lorde, Grimke, Truth, Faludi, Greer, Paglia, Ahmed, Butler and (I could continue) and you don't regularly read any feminist blogs, but still. Your girlfriend/mom/sister/woman-you-know read The Feminist [sic] Mystique and said it was crap. And, you've laughed at Rush Limbaugh quote about how ugly feminists are and have read some quotes on "men's rights" sites about things some feminists said in the '70s.

And sure, it's true, you don't read much, or any, research on gender, sex, gender roles, and stereotyping. Why would you when it's all Just So Very Obvious that Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, and "males" and "females" are opposite in every way? Indeed, you can't even believe you have to explain all of these self-evident truths to people!

So, really, when we think about it, why wouldn't all of this make you a Bona Fide Expert In Gender, Feminism, and Sexism Against Women?

Why wouldn't you assume that it's us, rather than you who has A Lot To Learn?

Totally rational, not-at-all sexist or condescending thing to do!

In fact, this post and comment thread is just for you!

Enlighten away.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Support (some of) the (male) Troops!

[Content/Trigger Warning: sexual assault, misogyny, misandry]

Oh anti-feminists. I love it when your uninspired, made-up narratives collide.

In the red corner, we have Fox news contributor Liz Trotta attacking female servicemembers, feminists, and the Department of Defense:

"...[T]he sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? [Men and women in the military] are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it's strictly been a question of pressure from the feminist.

And the feminists have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims' advocates, sexual response coordinators.

Let me just read something to you from McClatchy Newspapers about how much this position on extreme feminism is costing us. 'The budget for the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office leapt from $5 million in fiscal 2005 to more than $23 million in fiscal 2010. Total Defense Department spending on sexual assault prevention and related efforts now exceeds $113 million annually.' That's from McClatchy Newspapers.

So, you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much."

First let's note Trotta's craptastic suggestion that it's "extreme feminism" that's "costing us"- as though it's feminists rather than, say, rapists, who are the primary cause of the need for a sexual assault response.

What about the menz indeed.

And then there's her equally craptastic suggestion that sexual assault services for our troops are.... a bad thing.

Support the troops indeed.

But more to my point today is this message that women shouldn't serve in the military because men having to be in close contact with women will result in men raping the women because men are just hard-wired that way and there's nothing that could be done about rape aside from completely keeping women out of the military. (Oh hey, great PR campaign for heterosexuality and marriage by the way! Women: You and your children should live with these beings who are, by their very nature, unable to not rape you if they are in close contact with you! Sure, sign me up ASAP! Or not. Yep, definitely more of a lesbian now, thx.)

But wait!

In the other red corner, we have Rick Santorum, explaining why women shouldn't serve in combat:

"When you have men and women together in combat, I think men have emotions when you see a woman in harm's way. I think it's natural. It's very much in our culture to be protective. That was my concern. I think that's a concern with all of the militaries."


Here we see, once again, the infinite incoherence of anti-feminism, gender complementarism, and gender essentialism.

It's men's inherent nature to valiantly protect women. When they're not busy uncontrollably raping us, of course.

Also notable how this worldview erases male rape victims. Don't worry though, friends, I'm sure that's the fault of the The Feminists too. Fracken MRAs.

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Aspirin-Gate*

So, there was this:

"I get such a chuckle when these things come out. Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed, we have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about, and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think that says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are. And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s such inexpensive. Back in my days, they usedBayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

So said Foster Friess, some rich white dude I've never heard of who's supporting Rick Santorum for President.

You know, when I first heard about this "joke," I was reminded of some of my embarrassing older male relatives who are utterly oblivious to the fact that, These Days, the public and political spheres are somewhat-more inhabited by people other than straight white men who still think racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes are awesome displays of humor, supremacy, and intellectual prowess.

It's like, dudes, we're not staring silently at you with our WTF-faces on in response to your "jokes" because OMG PC Gone Awry! We're not laughing because your "jokes" just... aren't funny.

As the wonderful Jane Espenson has said:

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

I think, actually, what is kind of a funny "scalpel" is when corny "jokes" like Friess' backfire. As in, well, I didn't immediately get the joke when I first heard it because [*turning head sideways and pondering*] I'm pretty sure both sex and pregnancy can still occur if a woman has an aspirin between her legs.

What makes it funny isn't that he's a man and he's wrong, but that he's a man who's made himself the big arbiter of what is and isn't an important issue for women to talk and care about while being wrong about the very issue he's so dismissive and flippant about. #LOLMANSPLAINFAIL

Also funny is watching Santorum scramble to say he's "not responsible" for Friess' "humor" in light of this article a few days before Friess' gaffe, that highlights How Hilarious Rick Santorum Thinks His Buddy-Bud Foster Friess Is:

"Sporting a Santorum sweater vest, Friess peppered his brief remarks [at a Santorum rally] with jokes and delivered a ringing endorsement of Santorum's candidacy.

'Life is so much fun and filled with humor,' Friess began, smiling widely. 'There is a little bar a couple doors down, and recently a conservative, a liberal and moderate walk into the bar. The bartender says "Hi, Mitt."' The crowd gave Friess a rousing round of applause....

Santorum began his own speech by saying he wouldn't try to compete with Friess on the humor front. 'Foster cornered the market on that,' Santorum said."

Oh ho ho ho whoooops!

But more to the point, people seem to really be highlighting the aspiring-between-the-knees aspect of the "joke." But, well, what about that contention that birth control is just a silly little issue, one that deserves to be "chuckled" at, in light of other Real Issues like jihadist camps and unemployment?

If birth control were such a non-issue, so trivial, and so very unimportant, I reckon so many powerful men wouldn't be so intent on controlling women's access to it.

[*Yep, I added "-gate" there. It's campaign season! That's what we do!]

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Fun!

Well, I don't know about you all, but this has been a long week!

Talk about whatever you want today. And, if you're still up for political-type discussion check out my recent conversation at Family Scholars Blog with David Blankenhorn.

The recent Salon piece on Maggie Gallagher kind of framed Maggie as President of Marriage Defense and David as the Vice President (although, I'm not sure that's a fair representation of him or that he'd agree with it).

Nonetheless, I respect David. He is, whether he knows it or not, seen by many as a prominent voice against marriage equality. So, I take it as a compliment that he gives me space on his blog to share my opinions, that he actively engages my posts, and that he does so in a genial manner. We disagree on a lot, but we have at least a couple significant points of common ground, including the belief that same-sex couples deserve respect and possess basic human dignity.

I know, that seems like a low bar... but shared value is not always a given among opponents of marriage equality. So, it's nice to be able to disagree with someone about an issue without having to constantly prove that I'm not abnormal, pathological, and undeserving of being treated with respect because of my sexual orientation.

Check it out of you like.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Traditional View of "Females"

[TW: Gender policing, misogyny]

A recent Ann Coulter quote:

“I think all real females are right-wingers,” Coulter said, ” and I can tell you that based on experience — and my bodyguard will back me up on this — all pretty girls are right-wingers.”

What I've found is that a person's use of the word "female" as a noun is often a tip-off that I'm not dealing with a person who thinks rationally or fairly about women.

Aside from that, I find that "conservative women are OMG SO HAWT" meme to be an interesting revelation insofar as it reflects not only some major dishonesty, but a big conservative view of the value of women.

It is no accident that many prominent conservative women probably are considered attractive by the conventional beauty standards governing women. The sad truth, though, and one which many conservative men and women alike apparently don't recognize, is that the movement is largely unwilling to promote competent women as figureheads who fail to live up to those beauty standards.

I mean, it's complete and utter bullshit, of course, to claim that every single conservative woman is OMG SO HAWT! When uttered by conservative men, it's just a lie they tell "their" women to keep them in line.

It's the sick opposite of the also-utter-bullshit lie that "liberal/feminist/progressive women are OMG SO UGLY" claim. When uttered by men, that one's purpose is to strip women of their alleged primary value in life: their attractiveness to heterosexual men.

Welp, sorry gals, but here's a newsflash for ya:

All conservative women are not OMG SO HAWT.

The sad truth is actually that conservative women who are not considered conventionally attractive are usually marginalized within the male-dominated, feminist-bashing conservative movement.

They never get to be the big stars with the book deals or the shows or the radio programs.

They sit on the sidelines, like cheerleaders, rooting against their own self-interests in exchange for the "safety" of not being called ugly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Egocentrism of Anti-Autonomy

BrianWS's post at Shakesville, regarding his experiences as a gay pro-choice advocate, inspired today's post. In it, he talks about having briefly dated a man whose anti-choice ideology was only one facet of his basic lack of respect for individual autonomy.

In short, and especially for men who might not think abortion rights are all that relevant to them or their lives, if a person supports using the state to force a person into gestating and giving birth, what other interventions into personal bodily autonomy are they not willing to support?

Let me relay a story of my own.

In conversation with an opponent of same-sex marriage, let's call him Protagonist, he relayed that he personally is not entirely okay with "sodomy" being legal because he has had two friends die of AIDS. Protagonist, by the way, is a heterosexual married man who also opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

From his anecdote, I was to therefore believe that this man wasn't a bigot or anything, it's just that he Knows What's Best for gay people ("gay people," of course, to this guy seems to mean only men who have sex with men), and thus the liberties of "gay people" should be restricted.

Now, I'm not going to question this Protagonist's sincerity in being sad about his friends.

Indeed, I do think that just as he is sad about people engaging in "sodomy" and contracting HIV, many people who oppose other people's abortions might also feel sad and angry about the fact that some people get abortions.

But, I think what's important to point out (and what feels kind of.... odd to have to point out) is that the heterosexual man who opposes "homosexual sodomy" because it makes him sad when people die of AIDS doesn't, of course, have to actually live his life as a "gay person" who is celibate, or as a person living with HIV.

Kind of like the how the person who opposes other people's abortions is not, of course, the person who has to actually live with the pregnancy, the resulting child, or the guilt (or sadness or fear or resentment anger or [insert other emotion]) of actually having had an abortion.

What the person who opposes abortion or "sodomy" for other people feels is, instead, sadness or anger or discomfort about that other person's exercise of autonomy.

Indeed, the straight man who opposes legal sodomy, in this case, goes home to his lawfully-wedded wife, presumably has sex with her, hangs out with his celibate gay BFFs sometimes, and gets to feel smug, self-righteous, Not At All Bigoted, and totally moral about life.

What I question about this reason for denying other people's personal autonomy is the premise that I, or anyone else, am a supporting cast member whose freedom hinges on engaging or not engaging in activities that make Protagonists with no skin in the game sad, angry, or uncomfortable.

When we understand that this profoundly self-centered worldview is the basis for some people's opposition to other people's exercise of autonomy, we better understand why their entitlement to restrict other people's autonomy seemingly knows no bounds.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"As If Married"

In the 9th Circuit's recent Prop 8 opinion, the Court noted:

"... 'marriage' is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a lifelong committed relationship, a marriage by the name 'registered domestic partnership' does not."

As someone in a legal civil union with my same-sex partner, I think about this issue a lot.

In Illinois, the state Department of Revenue is requiring same-sex couples in civil unions to file their state taxes as married. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), however, same-sex couples in legal civil unions cannot file their federal taxes as married; they must file as single individuals. Complicating matters, in order to complete an Illinois tax return, one has to include numbers from one's federal return.

What this tangibly means is that people in same-sex civil unions will have to:

a) Complete and file a federal tax return as an individual;
b) Complete (but not actually file) a separate "fake" federal tax return "as if married" in order to get certain numbers to use on the Illinois return; and
c) Complete and file a state of Illinois tax return as married.


Aside from the extra time, effort, and cost that same-sex couples in Illinois will have to go through in filing their returns this year, isn't that phrase, "as if married," interesting?

The Illinois Department of Revenue, in its guidance to same-sex couples, actually used the lingo "as-if-married" to describe the federal filing status of same-sex couples in legal civil unions.

Civil unions and domestic partnerships are, for some, a compromise between giving same-sex couples the rights of marriage while preserving the word marriage for man-woman couples. They are supposed to be the thing that grants same-sex couples dignity while still letting people know that marriage is for the Normal People, or for the couples who are capable of procreation, or for couples who have the genitalia of those who are capable of procreating together even if they actually can't procreate together. Or.... something.

Yet, to me, this practical, tax-filing application of civil union/marriage law really illustrates what an absurd nod-and-a-wink "it's marriage, but not really marriage" scheme this separate-and-unequal arrangement really is.

The marriage/civil union arrangement makes a distinction between couples based, not on actual procreative ability, but on the gender composition of the partners in the relationship. Following from that distinction, the state (but not the federal government) funnels the same rights to these "different" couples through two separate licenses: a marriage license for the man-woman couples and a civil union license for the same-sex couples (or, to man-woman couples who choose the civil union license).

In this way, is the legal status of same-sex relationships in a constant state of flux.

Sometimes they are marriages. Sometimes they are civil unions. Sometimes they are "as-if-married"-types of relationships. And, sometimes, the partners in legal civil unions are complete legal strangers, say, when state borders are crossed, when certain forms have to be filled out, or when the federal government is involved.

Yet, if one can concede that a relationship is deserving of the same state-level rights as something called by a different name, is it really coherent or justifiable to call it by a different name? (Or, to treat it differently in different states, although that's a separate issue).

If a state granted licenses that allowed people to ride hoverboards on roadways would it make sense for the state to create two separate categories of licenses that granted the exact same rights? Imagine: The Generic Recreational License (for redheads only) and The Super FunTimes Hoverboard Permit (for everyone else). Sure, both licenses allow people to operate hoverboards and we all know that the licenses are the exact same except for the names.

But, wouldn't people wonder why the redheads are singled out in this way? Like, why couldn't they just call their licenses The Super Fun Times Hoverboard Permit too?

People would have legitimate reasons for asking why it had to be called something different if its legal effect was the same. People would have legitimate reasons for asking what people had against redheads. Or, saying, "if you're concerned about safety, then actually make the license hinge on a person's safety record rather than hair color."

I'm sure to some it seems silly that so much fuss is being made, on both sides of the marriage issue, over "just a word." I don't agree with Judge Reinhardt that "marriage" is for all people the relationship between two adults that "matters most," but the ferocity with which the word is fought over does demonstrate that the word is very important to many people. My point here is to suggest that the "same-sex couples can have everything except the word marriage" position begs a big question:

If same-sex couples are deserving of the same rights as man-woman couples, are same-sex couples really different enough from man-woman couples to justify calling their relationships something different?

[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog, Alas]

Monday, February 13, 2012

Salon Piece on Maggie Gallagher

Here's an interesting, humanizing portrait of Maggie Gallagher, perhaps the most active and well-known opponent of same-sex marriage.

In Mark Oppenheimer's framing of Gallagher, her early pregnancy, followed by abandonment by the father, contributed to not only her opposition to same-sex marriage but also to her anti-feminism. He writes:

"Gallagher was years ahead of her time in arguing, as writers like Kay Hymowitz do today, that contemporary society has left men without a role. 'We will never find a solution to the New Man shortage, unless we jettison gender neutrality,' Gallagher writes. 'Men need a role in the family. What men need, loath though we are to utter the word, is a sex role.'”

In all, I found it to be a glum read.

Gallagher's pessimistic thesis is that men are naturally hard-wired to impregnate women and then abandon them and the resulting children. It is a view that sees non-heterosexual men, and men who stick around without the carrot/stick of Traditional Male Supremacist Gender Roles In Marriage, as aberrations- as people motivated by "ideology" rather than their True Male Nature.

So, even while Oppenheimer makes a note of stating that Gallagher doesn't "seem" motivated by anti-gay animus, the subtext of the piece, whether accurate or not, invites the reader to infer that Maggie Gallagher is basically a nice person but because she had an out-of-wedlock child with a man who left her, other women, feminists, and gay, bisexual, and lesbian people must pay. Basically, I can't marry my partner because all men who have sex with women are essentially deadbeat dads, and when same-sex marriage is legal men, who are apparently very easily confused, start thinking that it's extra okay to abandon their children.

In any event, it is interesting that Oppenheimer explores Gallagher's alleged Un-Bigotedness. Gallagher utters the word bigot more than practically any LGBT advocate I've ever met or heard. And, it often comes when she's accusing LGBT advocates of "defaming" opponents of same-sex marriage with the label.

Not being privy to her thoughts, I don't know if she's a bigot or if she hates LGBT people.

From what I've read of her various NOM fundraising appeals, blog posts, and letters, she doesn't actually appear to think much about us at all. Our rights, human dignity, and needs to protect our families just don't seem to be a concern of hers, let alone a factor in weighing the competing interests of "marriage defenders" and same-sex couples.

The sad truth, though, is that most people in Western societies do have biases against homosexuality and LGBT people. Even many of us LGBT people have these biases. It is the result of living in a heterocentric/heterosupremacist society that regularly and pervasively communicates to us that heterosexuality is the default normal and best way of being human.

It actually takes a lot of work and thought to overcome these biases, and even with that work it doesn't appear that all people can completely overcome these biases.

So, I guess what I'm left thinking is, if I harbor some anti-LGBT animus and I'm a lesbian who supports marriage equality, affirms the equal human dignity of LGBT people, and I regularly work to counter the biases against LGBT people, why on Earth would I ever assume or believe that Maggie Gallagher, or any opponent of same-sex marriage for that matter, doesn't harbor some anti-LGBT animus?

Unfortunately, that's exactly what this conservative politically-correct "don't you dare call us bigots" culture asks from us. As long as some people push the animus deep enough inside of themselves so much that they don't ever have to think or talk about the people on the receiving end of their policy positions, I guess it's all good. No need to re-think things. No need to actually talk to LGBT people about our human dignity. Because really, the important thing is that people don't get called bigots.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What the What Now?

[Content/trigger warning: Gender policing]

Gender traditionalist/Christian/Upholder Of Real American Values/Watergate Obstructor Of Justice/Former Prisoner/Townhall columnist Chuck Colson does not seem happy about a London toy store's decision to de-pink and de-blue its store.

Blah blah blah usual ignorant tripe about how ALL boys and ALL girls just essentially and inherently prefer to play differently and with different toys from the "opposite" sex, blah blah blah without taking into account how these preferences are, or even might be, shaped by social environments and conditioning.

For me, the big clue that allows me to dismiss dude's entire piece on accounta obvious-feminist-bashing-agenda, was this:

"[Feminists] believe that women aren’t pursuing these opportunities because they still buy into traditional ideas about gender differences. The venom directed at stay-at-home mothers is but one example of this thinking.

More recently, this thinking has manifested itself in a backlash against prominent women who are considered too feminine. Actress Zooey Deschanel is a favorite target of feminists who consider her too 'girly' and, as such, a bad example for young women."


I read Feminist Internet every day and....did I miss something...big?


Seriously. Hearing it from this dudely Notable Expert On Feminism, the entire feminist movement is basically a ginormous burn book pontificating upon the suckiness of Zooey Deschanel.

Sure, Chuck.

You just have to love anti-feminist dudes who try to provoke women into fighting, resenting, and competing with each other. How gossipy and conniving these patriarchs are. If you listen closely, you can almost hear their pasty lips whispering, hey ladies, didja hear what the feminists are saying about you and femininity and women, hmmmmmm? Just hang with us, kiddo, and we'll make sure you're fine. Sure you have to act in accordance with your Proper Gender Role and, if you get pregnant, we'll dictate what you do with your body, but trust us, it's really THE FEMINISTS who totally hate you.

Now, sure, I have seen some intra-feminist criticisms and debates about Deschanel's supposed presentation of an infantilized version of womanhood, but (a) these critiques hardly represent some sort of feminist consensus about her as a person and (b) Colson seems like a man who might still call women "girls" and thus probably couldn't fathom why some feminists might find it problematic when adults act, dress, and talk like young girls.

Not that Deschanel necessarily does any of that. I honestly don't know or care. I think I've seen her in, like, one episode of a TV show that didn't really hold my attention. If anything, she gets points in my book for being Tempe Brennan's sister.

Anyway, gotta run.

Those "Zooey Deschanel sucks Sexist anti-feminist men often utilize shit-stirring tactics to divide women" posts aren't going to write themselves!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Re-Visiting the Glass Escalator

Despite women's long history of being denied equality in admissions to universities and graduate programs, one of the earliest and most famous US Supreme Court cases regarding the right for state schools to discriminate on the basis of sex in admissions was brought (and won) by a man.

In Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, the male-dominated US Supreme Court decided in his favor 5-4 in an opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She wrote:

"The facts are not in dispute. In 1884, the Mississippi Legislature created the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls of the State of Mississippi, now the oldest state-supported all-female college in the United States. 1884 Miss. Gen. Laws, Ch. 30, 6. The school, known today as Mississippi University for Women (MUW), has from its inception limited its enrollment to women."

Seems like they also limited enrollment, at least for a time, to white women, er, "girls."

O'Connor continues:

"In 1971, MUW established a School of Nursing, initially offering a 2-year associate degree. Three years later, the school instituted a 4-year baccalaureate program in nursing and today also offers a graduate program. The School of Nursing has its own faculty and administrative officers and establishes its own criteria for admission.

Respondent, Joe Hogan, is a registered nurse but does not hold a baccalaureate degree in nursing. Since 1974, he has worked as a nursing supervisor in a medical center in Columbus, the city in which MUW is located."

Of course he has.

The Supreme Court handed down this opinion in 1981, and 15 years later, delivered the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) opinion striking down the VMI's exclusion of women.

This is all old news, of course, from a legal and political standpoint.

However, the facts of the two cases really illustrate how state discrimination toward men and women is, oftentimes, not at all equivalent. And, I think some people forget that. In their zeal to make feminism, "gender egalitarianism," and/or gender studies appealing to men, I sometimes see this "men and women have/had things just as bad, except in opposite ways" meme perpetuated, and I think that's a pretty historically-ignorant claim to make.

In MUW, thanks at least in part to the glass escalator whereby men in traditionally "feminine" occupations advance much more quickly and easily than women, the male victim of discrimination was already a licensed nurse and was already in a leadership position in that occupation despite not having a bachelor's degree.

He also had opportunities to earn a bachelor's degree in Mississippi at non-sex-segregated universities. The barriers that men faced in entering the field of nursing were, for the most part, ones of having to endure social disapproval, shame, and being marked with the "taint" of feminine inferiority for choosing a "womanly" profession. Yet, just like in the fields of cooking, fashion design, and hair-styling, we see that many of the men who enter those professions often rise to the top for, what can look like on the surface, no other reason than their alleged Inherent Superior Male Competence At Stuff.

Sure, it might not be easy for men to deal with the shame of working in these professions, but there often are not the same structural barriers to entry in those professions as there were for women who historically tried to enter male-dominated professions where licenses were, literally, denied to them on the basis of sex. For instance, in 1872, when Myra Bradwell went all the way to the Supreme Court to try to get her law license, the men on the Supreme Court denied her request because "God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action." Far from being a supervisor who was already-licensed in hir chosen profession, as the MUW guy was, Bradwell was legally restricted from entering that profession in the first place.

Similarly, in VMI, the women were seeking entry into a prestigious military school that provided an experience that could be had at no other institution in the state, and few institutions elsewhere in the US. Unlike MUW, where the assumption was that men maybe shouldn't be nurses but that they of course had the competence to be nurses if they wanted to be, the state's assumption in VMI was that women shouldn't be VMI cadets and of course they lacked the competence and suitability to be VMI cadets.

The different treatment of men and women seeking to enter non-gender-conforming professions seems to follow an unspoken rule of "anything professional a woman can do, a man can do better."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

9th Circuit Rules Prop 8 Unconstitutional

"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially re-classify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples." -Judge Reinhardt, Perry v. Brown

Yesterday, as you might have heard, the 9th Circuit held that Prop 8 violates the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

An important take-away of this decision is that it is a narrow one. The Court asked, to paraphrase, "Was it constitutional for California to extend the status of marriage to same-sex couples and then later take that status away?" That is an interesting way for the Court to have framed the issue. Framing is everything in a court case and, while it is certainly true that the State took away same-sex couples' right to marry, the Court could have just as well framed the issue as "Is it constitutionally permissible for voters to deny same-sex couples the right to marry?"

The US Supreme Court, shall this case eventually make it there, should then in theory limit its ruling to the narrowly-framed issue as articulated by the 9th Circuit. However, I wouldn't be surprised if the Supreme Court also decided to frame the issue differently. At least several different legitimate ways usually exist to frame a constitutional issue.

So, in answer the narrow issue, the 9th Circuit recounted the facts of Prop 8. In short, before Prop 8 passed, 18,000 same-sex couples were legally married in the state of California and given all of the state-level rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage. After Prop 8 passed, same-sex couples alone then lost the right to designation of "marriage," while still maintaining the state-level rights, benefits, responsibilities of marriage.

Yes, I can already hear opponents of same-sex marriage questioning how it could possibly hurt same-sex couples to take away the word "marriage" from same-sex couples if such couples still received the same rights under a different designation. I would suggest that such people become familiar with the word "stigma." Or, as the 9th Circuit explained:

"...[W]e emphasize the extraordinary significance of the official designation of 'marriage.' The official designation is important because 'marriage' is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a lifelong committed relationship, a marriage by the name 'registered domestic partnership' does not."

I have said before that I have complicated, conflicting thoughts about assimilating same-sex couples into the Cool Kids' Marriage Club and how that might, in turn, stigmatize other forms of relationships between adults and create new hierarchies. On a practical level, I also think that allowing same-sex couples to marry will decrease the stigma associated with same-sex relationships and homosexuality. And so to answer my own criticism, I don't see marriage equality for same-sex couples as the ultimate end goal of the LGBT/feminist/progressive movement that I want to be a part of, I see it as a step in the right direction.

Continuing on with the opinion, the 9th Circuit then asked whether California had a legitimate reason for taking away the designation "marriage" from same-sex couples.

Perhaps explaining why the Court framed the issue as it did, the 9th Circuit articulated that it is much different, and suggestive of a more sinister purpose, to take away a right from a disliked minority group than to merely leave alone a status quo of "man woman marriage." In this way, by extending same-sex couples the right to marry and then taking away that right, this case is analogous to Romer v. Evans, where local ordinances first banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and then, later, voters repealed all laws in the state that protected people on the basis of sexual orientation.

As a notable fact, Justice Kennedy is widely believed to be the swing vote in any Supreme Court same-sex marriage opinion. He wrote the majority pro-equality opinion in Romer. It is an interesting approach for the 9th Circuit to have made the Prop 8/Romer comparison so explicitly here. I would be surprised if that were a coincidence and I hope that bodes well for Team Equality.

The 9th Circuit then addressed the reasons put forth for enacting Prop 8:

1) Prop 8 "advances California's interest in responsible procreation and childrearing" (I have addressed this argument here and explained why it's not a legit reason for discrimination): The Court held that Prop 8 was not rationally-related to these interests because Prop 8 did not restrict the right of same-sex couples to adopt or raise children. A law that was actually aimed to promote man-woman child-rearing would have sought to restrict same-sex parenting.

2) There is no point to same-sex marriage because same-sex couples can't accidentally procreate: The Court claimed that it is no justification to take something away to say that it should have never been given in the first place. Prop 8 proponents would have had to argue, and demonstrate, that same-sex marriage would make it more likely for man-woman couples to procreate "accidentally or irresponsibly" upon the legalization of same-sex marriage. They failed to do so.

3. Prop 8 justifies the state's interest in proceeding cautiously in changing the definition of marriage: The Court aptly noted that, in short, an absolute ban of unlimited duration on same-sex marriage in the state Constitution was not merely proceeding with caution, it is a fundamental barrier. It is therefore not rational to think that Prop 8 was enacted for purposes of acting cautiously.

To end, the 9th Circuit concluded that absent a rational relationship to any purported government interest in passing Prop 8, the voters of California enacted Prop 8 out of animosity or, more likely, "mere disapproval" of gays and lesbians- which is not a legitimate government interest. In making this conclusion, the Court observed that, as in Romer, the pro-Prop 8 ads often relied on stereotypes about the inferiority of same-sex relationships, stated that homosexuality and gays/lesbians are inferior, and that children need to be protected from learning about homosexuality and gay people.

[Cross-posted: Alas]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lady Flips Off Camera For Milisecond, Violence Profiteers Very Offended

What a strange society we live in.

During the halftime show of a violent sport that often has lifelong negative health repercussions on the heads and bodies of its participants and in which its male athletes often engage in public, celebratory dances involving humping the air and taunting opponents, and in which TV networks receive money to air commercials that present scantily-clad women as the sex class for hetero men, a woman spontaneously flips off a TV camera for a fraction of a second and NBC and the NFL suddenly fall over themselves to condemn and apologize for that gesture.

Seriously?! That's the thing you fall ass-over-heals onto your fainting couch about?


Exaggerating and condemning female misbehavior while ignoring celebrating male aggression and misbehavior is how rape culture works to entitle men to violence and aggression.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Speaking of Republican Primary Season

Wanna hear the most annoying song in the world?

I think it's pretty funny, I don't know why. Possibly because (a) someone actually put semi-scientific thought into how they could come up with the most annoying song ever and (b) that children singing was high on the list of disliked sounds.


I know we're all supposed to think that children are So Cute when they sing, but a lot of the time, it sounds to me like they're basically just yelling. Good to know I'm not alone there.

[Description for those unable to hear the music: The 20-minute-plus song includes "holiday music, bagpipes, pipe organ, a children’s chorus...Wal-Mart, cowboys, political jingoism, George Stephanopoulos, Coca Cola, bossanova synths, banjo ferocity, harp glissandos, oompah-ing tubas," and a woman rapping in opera, which have been found to be people's least favorite sounds.]

Friday, February 3, 2012

9th Circuit: Prop 8 Tapes To Remain Sealed

The Prop 8 saga continues!

Yesterday, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held (PDF) that a lower court abused its discretion in ordering the unsealing of tapes of the Prop 8 trial.

I'm not happy with the decision, but I agree with it. Here's why:

If you remember, the legal defenders of Prop 8 opposed plans to broadcast the trial live. In a pre-trial brief, they claimed:

"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."

The issue of broadcasting the trial went all the way to the Supreme Court. There, without explanation, the Court disallowed the trial to be broadcast.

The judge in the Prop 8 trial, Judge Walker, then continued to allow the trial to be recorded because, as the 9th Circuit opinion cites, Judge Walker asserted that the recordings would only be used for purposes of helping him reach a decision and would not be publicly broadcast. Later, "a different federal judge ordered that the recordings be unsealed because "no compelling reason" existed for keeping them from the public.

And so we come to the 9th Circuit opinion.

Let's talk here about what the opinion is definitely not saying. What this opinion says, if you read it, is not that the recordings must remain sealed because the witnesses in support of Prop 8 are so very scared of same-sex marriage supporters.

Indeed, as key Prop 8 witness David Blankenhorn admitted to me in conversation at Family Scholars Blog, he "never felt physically threatened" because of his testimony and he didn't even seem to be aware that the Prop 8 legal team was putting forth the narrative that witnesses like him were Too Scared To Testify. (Fun Fact: Check out Page 18 of The American Foundation for Equal Rights' brief! (PDF) I love that part of a blog conversation that I provoked is part of the official Prop 8 record! #bragging).

What the 9th Circuit opinion says, if you read it, is that Judge Walker said that he was only going to use the recordings in his own chambers and that he should therefore be held to that. To not hold Judge Walker to his assurance would, in fact, harm the integrity of the judiciary.

What do I think?

I think the tapes should have never been sealed in the first place, and that the US Supreme Court erred in saying that the trial could not be broadcast live, because I strongly question the accuracy and truthfulness of the claim that the broadcast had to be hidden from the public in order to somehow protect the Prop 8 witnesses, who were already relatively-public figures in the anti-SSM movement. I also think many professional opponents of same-sex marriage are petrified of the recordings going viral, mostly because their arguments, witnesses, and substantive points were pretty well walloped by the pro-equality attorneys and experts.

However, given that Judge Walker stated that the recordings would only be used in his chambers, and would not be broadcast to the public, I also think the 9th Circuit makes a compelling argument that it would harm the integrity of the judiciary to not hold Walker to his word regarding the release of the recordings.

The 9th Circuit will soon be issuing a ruling on the merits of the Prop 8 decision. I'm far more interested in that outcome, quite honestly.

[Cross-posted: Alas]

Thursday, February 2, 2012

On "the Core" of Marriage

In the comment threads over at Family Scholars Blog there has been a fair amount of discussion about what constitutes the core of marriage. By "core," it seems as though people are referring to the essence of marriage, or to its defining features and/or purpose.

Supporters of same-sex marriage (SSM) are sometimes challenged to identify this core of marriage, since it is us (supporters of SSM, that is) who argue that marriage is something that two people of the same sex can have.

Why I view this challenge as problematic is because I contend that it is inaccurate to speak of marriage as though it has, or should have, one "core" that is universally-accepted by all in a society, much less across all societies that have ever existed. For one, it is a demonstrable statement of fact that people have differing beliefs as to what constitutes the, or even a, core of marriage. To some, the core of marriage is "one man and one woman." To some, it is "two adults in a romantic and mutually-supportive relationship." To some, it is "one man and one woman (and this same man and another woman, and this same man and possibly another woman)." To some, it is "a group of people who are all married to each other." Further variations exist.

Two, a related point, marriage is a human construct and, as such, is given meaning by the humans who utilize it, recognize it, and speak of it.

Sure, some argue that marriage is not a human construct and that it instead comes from, say, God or is just a fact of nature. But, that argument is unconvincing. How does one prove that marriage comes from God? How does one recognize a marriage in nature, in the way that, say, we would recognize a tree or a flower?

Most of us understand how babies are made but, in nature, absent the existence of a marriage license, how do we know that a marriage exists? Is it every man-woman pair that engages in sexual intercourse? Is it only the ones who say they're married? Is it any man-woman pair that has children, even if they don't plan on staying together for life?

My point with these rhetorical questions is that marriage is not a universal, readily-recognizable entity in the way that tangible, natural phenomena are.

Abstractions aside, what matters to many same-sex couples isn't where marriage supposedly comes from or what its "One True Core" is. Many do not view this conversation as an esoteric debating exercise. What matters are the rights, benefits, obligations, and privileges that flow from a state which grants some partnerships the legal status of marriage.

In legal terms, in the US, marriage has multiple meanings or "cores." In New Hampshire, for instance, "[m]arriage is the legally recognized union of 2 people. Any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender." The core of marriage is two people, of any gender, who meet certain requirements.
But, in Nevada, the state's Constitution reads, "[o]nly a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state." There, the core of marriage is between two people, one of the male sex and the other of the female sex, who meet certain requirements.

From a religious standpoint, Catholicism defines marriage as a "covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. [It] has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptised."

Other religious groups, such as the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Unitarian Universalists, and some rabbis in the Reconstructionist and Reform Judaism movements view both mixed-sex and same-sex couples as capable of comprising the core of marriage.

In light of this definitional diversity, perhaps marriage doesn't have to mean the same thing for everyone across all secular, societal, and religious contexts. Perhaps it is an institution that never can mean the same thing to all in a society. Certainly not in a society that is increasingly accepting of the equal dignity of non-heteronormative relationships and their needs to protect their families via the legal system.

If it involves consenting adults, I generally support the right of private organizations and individuals to define marriage as they deem fit. The Catholic Church doesn't want to perform same-sex weddings? Fine. I don't want a wedding in a Catholic Church anyway. (I recognize that some people might want that who cannot have it, but I would support that progressive change to come from within the church, rather than through the state forcing the church to solemnize same-sex marriages).

To me, those who make arguments about what marriage supposedly is are refusing to participate in the more relevant debate that needs to take place in a democratic society. When very real benefits, rights, obligations, and privileges are accorded to those who possess the status "married," the only debate is what should the core of marriage, from a civil, legal standpoint, be?

Under Equal Protection doctrine in the US, we generally strive to treat "likes alike" and "unalikes unalike." To continue being very general, it is okay for the state to discriminate, but it must have good enough reasons to do so. That is, those being discriminated against must be different in a manner that is relevant to why they are being discriminated against.

To get out of the realm of abstractions, I will note a core of marriage as articulated by Elizabeth Marquardt,at Family Scholars Blog:

"Rather, a core purpose of marriage is to channel the reality that heterosexual sex quite often makes babies into a stable (most likely to be found in a marital) union of the baby’s own mother and father, for the sake of the babies and the mothers and father."

Here, an important core of marriage, according to Elizabeth, is for children to know and be raised by both of their biological parents. Thus, using this core of marriage, it would be acceptable to not allow same-sex couples to marry because they do not fulfill this core. There would be, it seems, no point to their marriage if marriage is about a man and a woman creating children together and then raising those children together.

And yet, we can easily think of other couples, couples who are allowed to marry, who similarly fail to fulfill this core of marriage:

1. A childless, post-menopausal woman who marries a man
2. A man and a woman who are fertile with other partners, but not with one another*
3. A man who lacks testicles who marries a woman
4. A woman who has had a hysterectomy who marries a man

I could continue.

These examples are not "gotchas." I want to be very clear about that.

See, the only thing our legal system cares about in asking whether whether state discrimination is the acceptable kind of discrimination is whether a legitimate enough reason exists for that discrimination. And, on that front, if the purpose of marriage is to channel heterosexual sex into procreation that results in children being raised by their biological parents, couples 1-4 are just like same-sex couples: Any children they raise will not be both of their biological offspring.

And so, from an Equal Protection standpoint, the legal system should be treating likes alike. But, in most US states, it's not. Most states grant marital status to some mixed-sex couples who haven't "earned" it via reproduction and child-rearing, while denying that status to same-sex couples precisely because they haven't "earned" it in that way.

Why observing this reality isn't a "gotcha" is because I contend that, if the "core" of marriage is what Elizabeth says it is, then it degrades that core of marriage and confuses people about what that core is, when we allow couples 1-4 into marriage. Allowing such couples into marriage is to grant them a special privilege that is denied to those with whom they are similarly-situated.

Indeed, to many LGBT people and allies, it looks like couples 1-4 are granted marriage licenses not so they can fulfill the core purpose of marriage, indeed they cannot, but to give them a nod, a wink, and a pass because they look a lot like members of the Super Special Heterosexual Procreators' Club. (And that's before we even start looking at possible anti-gay/bigotry-related motivations that some harbor).

So, when we start thinking about whether or not discrimination against same-sex couples is the acceptable kind of discrimination in light of what marriage is purportedly all about, it begins looking less and less acceptable due to the overbroad nature of many marriage laws.

Now, I am not, of course, actually arguing that couples who cannot procreate degrade the institution of marriage. But, rather, that we seem to have a societal incoherence in talking about marriage, with those on all sides of the issue claiming that they alone possess its one true definition. (And here it is worth noting that Elizabeth said that she was stating "a" core of marriage, which suggests one of many possible cores, rather than "the" core of marriage).

Our overbroad (or is it underinclusive?) marriage laws are reflective not only of this incoherence, but of the reality that marriage simply means different things to different people.

Maybe we need to do a better job of becoming okay with that.

*In about 10% of infertility cases, a couple's infertility arises from a combination of both of their individuals make-ups. They may be fertile with other people, but they cannot conceive with one another. Such a couple is a particularly apt comparison to same-sex couples.

Since they are failing to fulfill the purported core of marriage, I wonder, if marriage rights were denied to them on that basis, would people tell them they could simply choose to marry other people? Or would that be readily-recognized as cruel?

[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog]

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

This Is What An Anti-Feminist Looks Like

[TW: Accidental death, mass casualty, gender policing, misandry, misogyny]

Some MRAs seem to think that it is modern-day feminists who, perhaps through the use of time travel, are single-handedly responsible for the "women and children first" policy on the Titanic.

The voices they completely let off the hook for such sexist (toward both men and women) policies are traditionalists who believe that it is women's One True Authentic Role to be protected and men's One True Authentic Role to protect.

Take a recent column at conservative Christian forum LifeSite news, where Hilary White takes the opportunity to capitalize upon the Costa Concordia disaster for purposes of bashing feminism. (Note: MRAs, meet Hilary White. Hilary white, meet MRAs). She writes:

"What kind of man sneaks away under cover of darkness from his own sinking ship, leaving nearly 4200 passengers and crew to fend for themselves? What kind of men knock aside old ladies, little girls and young mothers to get to lifeboats first? Why, modern men, sexually emancipated men who have been raised on the tenets of feminism and our 'contemporary' mores."

Did you catch that?

Notice what White's view, a very traditional view on gender, asks of men. It asks them to view the lives of "old ladies, little girls, and young mothers" as more valuable, more worthy of being saved, than their own lives. Notice too the implication: It has been feminism that has given men the radical notion that they don't have to sacrifice their own lives, on sole account of their sex, for the lives of women and children.

And then notice that she takes it for granted that prior to feminism, all men were self-sacrificial knights-in-shining-armor who would never harm women.

LOL sure.

She continues:

"What can an expression like 'women and children first' mean to modern men who have been taught all their lives that women are nothing more precious than sexual playthings, and children nothing more than a disposable burden?"

The line about children being "nothing more than a disposable burden" is, of course, a cheap jab at pro-choice beliefs. We are apparently to believe that men are utterly incapable of valuing children as human beings now that women have some abortion rights in some countries.

As you can see, the traditionalist does not think highly of men.

Most amusingly, though, is her implication that first came feminism, then came men's view that women are nothing but "sexual playthings," therefore, feminism teaches men that women are nothing but "sexual playthings."


It's always good, before reading the rest of an anti-feminist's article, to know up-front that they're basically ignorant of much of feminism, and apparently have never heard of radical anti-pornography feminism. Indeed, like many ignorant anti-feminists are wont to do, she mistakes the sexual revolution for a feminist one. For instance, she charmingly calls the sexual revolution feminism's "strumpet daughter," as though feminism's motto is and always has been "Women: We admit it, we really are nothing but sexual playthings for men!".

She continues blathering on about our apparent femi-topia:

"In one video, [some Catholic dude] mentioned the type of men who are approved by the feminist-controlled media: weak, stupid and ineffectual, who need to be ruled over by strong, hip, intelligent women."

I just- what? Are you kidding me? The "feminist-controlled media"? Oh I can't even. I mean, come on Hilary White, you're not even trying here. The Bechdel Test has been a thing on Internet for at least 5 years, which is like 20 years in real world time.


But alas, she continues:

"In the last 50 years, the Catholic institution has followed the world in adopting the feminist model. That ideal, Voris says, has driven strong men out of the Church and out of family life, pushing them to find a channel for their masculinity in unhealthy avenues like criminality and the objectification of women."

I would call the Catholic Church many things. "Too feminist" is for sure not one of them.

The whole piece is really something.

In White's version of reality, feminism is at once all-powerful and yet, mysteriously, totally nonsensical. But, I see three important take-aways from her piece.

First, it's she, not feminists, who is implying that men have no free will and bear no adult responsibility for their development as human beings. Men These Days, according to White, have failed to "grow up" and have failed to value women.

Why? Feminism, natch:

"Instead of insisting that men grow up, marry a woman and protect and care for their children, it has offered men women as toys while offering women the Pill, abortion and family court as the back-up plan."

Here we learn that men need their mommy-wives, who somehow are capable of becoming fully-formed adults, to teach them how to be responsible. And yes, It is a strange incoherence of gender traditionalism that men are, by virtue of their sex, perpetual babies and yet, mysteriously, the sex best suited to Rule The World.

Two, we see how misogyny so often intertwines with misandry within traditionalist gender viewpoints. She writes:

"The effeminate man-child is a plague in Italy; vain, self-important, shallow and self-seeking mamma’s boys who live in their parents’ house into their thirties and forties."

Throughout her piece, she implies that women are more responsible and valuable than men. And yet, the very qualities that apparently make women more responsible and valuable, apparently essential "effeminate" qualities, somehow cause men to remain child-like. This is an incoherence for sure, but it's also a condescending admission about what gender traditionalists really think of women.

Feminists often say that no one wins under traditional gender roles and this is a good illustration of that. Men apparently need women to help them become Real Adult Men, and women, despite having that responsibility, can never actually become full adults because of their essential "effeminacy."

Lastly, it's interesting that White references "feminism's misandry" as though it's such a given that it is doesn't need to be further expounded upon. But let's all remember that it's she, not feminists, who is ordering Real Men to go down on a sinking ship because they are men and that's what men do.

Have fun with that, men.