Monday, April 30, 2012

Heterosexuality As a Non-Orientation

The Patriarchy Indoctrination Club Boy Scouts of America recently removed a woman from the position of den leader because she's a lesbian. The organization then issued a statement:

"Scouting, and the majority of parents it serves, does not believe it is the right forum for children to become aware of the issue of sexual orientation, or engage in discussions about being gay. Rather, such complex matters should be discussed with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting."

Notice here how unlike existing as a heterosexual, merely existing as a lesbian, apparently, induces children to "become aware of the issue of sexual orientation."

Under this view, heterosexuality is not a sexual orientation at all.  It is the "other," homosexuality, that is the sexual orientation and must be marked as such. Heterosexuality, the Normal Default, is not marked. It is, to the Boys Scouts, unremarkable.

As though children only become aware of the "issue os sexual orientation" when they encounter those who are not heterosexual.

Unlike homosexuality which is "complex," heterosexuality is simple. That's why children never have to be bullied, coerced, and policed into displaying proper performances of it.

I jest.

What's complex, of course, is not homosexuality. What is complex is how a nice, Christian organization can marginalize and denigrate an entire group of people and still be considered a Nice Guy. That takes real rhetorical and political maneuvering right there.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Random Friday Bits

Parks and Recreation is, lit-erally, my favorite show on television right now.

All-around, the characters are pretty great. It's funny and smart without denigrating people. I suspect that were I a straight or bisexual lady, I'd be into Ron Swanson. What can I say? I'm into strong men who aren't threatened by, or who don't undermine, strong women.

Speaking of strong women, just as an update regarding some conversation that happened after my "Weightlifting While Female" post, I picked up a copy of Convict Conditioning (thanks Cynthia!) and am giving that a whirl. I wouldn't call it a feminist book, as its default athlete is male, but it doesn't complete exclude women from the realm of wanting to, and benefiting from, the listed body weight workouts.

I've added the Big 6 progressions to my workout routine, and am looking forward to being able to do those bad-ass full one-legged squats, and also to be able to crank out 10 full pull-ups. Not sure those one-armed hand-stand pushups will ever happen! We'll see.

Talk about Parks and Rec, working out, or whatever today. If you want!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

On Self-Worth and Feminism

[Content note: Discussion of abusive behaviors]

In relation to my recent MRA post, an anti-feminist dude recently informed me:

"You have a greater sense of self-worth than I'd imagined."

That sense of self-worth, I was to believe, was a Very Bad Thing.


I bring it up because this particular line of attack is a recurring theme in my interactions with anti-feminist men and MRA types over the years. It often makes me chuckle when it happens, because I'm like, "Really? No. Really? That's your Big Time Insult? And I should start groveling about that... why, again?"

See, around Internet, I have had a few dozen men or so scold me for being "very confident" and other variations of me Thinking Entirely Too Highly Of Myself For Being a Mere Woman.

That I exist as a feminist woman who doesn't hate myself, more than anything, is what seems to most irk some dudes about my Internet presence. Some men simply cannot fathom a woman who dares to value herself even if a man tells her not to, or that she shouldn't, or that she can't, or that she has no reason to.

It seems simple to say, obvious perhaps, but there it is. Anti-feminists just are not okay with women who are okay with ourselves.

On the contrary, it is a tenet of many self-defense and violence prevention programs to tell people, often women, that we are worth defending and that our boundaries matter. Many of these programs teach us to first recognize when abuse is happening, that it can happen in varying degrees, and that abusers are able to perpetuate their abuse by making people, often women, feel as though it is self-centered, egotistical, and All High And Mighty for believing that we and other people, often women, are worth defending and that our boundaries matter.

I guarantee there are MRA types reading the above paragraph in mocking contempt, as they often do when feminists and women start talking about boundaries, safe spaces, and aggression. Ever seen an MRA ridicule-fest on trigger/content warnings, which are often used in the feminist blogosphere to warn readers of potentially triggering material?

These acts of kindness, acts that I see as costing little to myself but potentially meaning a lot to someone else, are to MRAs and anti-feminists dorky, touch-feely, feminine, and further evidence of the irrational and hysterical nature of women and feminists.

This type of ridicule, this denigration of acts that show that other people have value, is no accident. It's just another way to undermine civility in the never-ending quest to make other people, especially women, feel worthless. Because when people feel worthless, MRAs and anti-feminists know that it's easier to convince people that their boundaries matter less.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Elaine Donnelly's Take on the DOD Sexual Assault Report

[Content note/trigger warning: Sexual assault, homophobia]

The US Department of Defense has released its Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military (PDF).

Elaine Donnelly, that ridiculous lady who makes her living opposing LGB people in the military, is all over this report, rarin' to "connect the dots" between the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and any purported increases in sexual assault.

Over at World Net Daily (where I will not link, so as not to drive traffic there and increase their profits), Bob Unruh has written an easily-enough-found article citing Donnelly, called "Now Men Are the Victims of Military Sexual Assaults."

The implications in the headline are odious enough.

For one, it completely erases the men who have been sexually assaulted in the military prior to the repeal of DADT. And two, it implies that now that men are being sexually assaulted we can start paying attention to sexual assault in the military. As though being raped is women's natural state of being, but shit's getting serious when it happens to men.

The article then begins:
"While the full picture remains far from clear, signs of the ill effects of the Democrat-initiated law allowing homosexuals to serve in the U.S. military without hiding their sexual preference are beginning to appear.
The newest reports for Fiscal Year 2011, have just come out, and Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center For Military Readiness, immediately noted that sexual misbehavior is on the rise. 
She cited the 515 rapes, 414 aggravated sexual assaults and 349 forcible sodomies documented by just the Criminal Investigation Command in 2011."
Unruh and Donnelly fail to include prior year statistics so we can compare these numbers for ourselves. They just claim that the numbers of these crimes are "on the rise."

Later on in the piece, Donnelly claims:
"While, since 2006, 5 percent of the violent sexual assaults have been against men, recent reports now put that figure at 12 to 14 percent."
Unruh then goes on to include several graphic descriptions of male-on-male assault. Just 'cuz, apparently.


Here's the thing.

Nowhere in this piece did I get the impression that either Donnelly or Unruh give two shits about victims of sexual assault, male or female. The piece is incredibly simplistic, appearing as though the overriding purpose is a political one.

The basic argument is a correlative: Hey look, before DADT was repealed, men reported lower rates of sexual assault. After DADT was repealed, men reported higher rates. Therefore, the predatory homos are raping the men and totally getting away with it now that gays can serve openly! OMG PC gone awry!

To say that Unruh and Donnelly make no attempt to even consider other relevant issues going on is to give them a benefit of the doubt they probably don't deserve. Surely, Good Christians would never purposefully exclude relevant information for purposes of profiting from an Oppose Everything Gay Agenda. Erm, right?

So, what are these relevant other issues?

Well, first is the fact that the the DOD first established the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program in 2005. Note that Donnelly cites that, since 2006, 5% of violent sexual assaults have been against men and that now that number is at 12-14%.

Three of the relevant goals of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program with respect to that claim are "increase confidence in reporting," "improve sexual assault response," and "improve system accountability." As the report states, "a significant barrier to reporting is a common belief among victims that nothing will be done after a sexual assault is reported."

If the DOD has been taking measures to create a climate where victims feel safer, less stigmatized, and more confident reporting their assaults, it is reasonable to expect an increase in reported sexual assaults over the course of the 7 years this program has been in place. That is, the actual crimes may not be increasing; it could be that people are reporting the crimes more often.

Do Donnelly, Unruh, and the homobigot commenters at WND consider this tidbit at all? Nope. It doesn't jive with their HomoPredator Narrative, so why would they?

If they had their druthers, I reckon a Rape Prevention Program they would come up with would consist of keeping women and gays entirely out of the military, because heterosexual men are incapable of not raping women and gay men are incapable of not raping straight men so, hey, whudareyagunnado?

Gender segregation is awesome, to these people, except, um, when it comes to marriage. When suddenly, it's highly advisable for Woman to marry and live with Rapist Man. It's quite a dim view of men these gender traditionalists take. And, let's note once again that this view of men is not one that's taken by many of us "man-hating feminists."

Secondly, oftentimes, it is LGBT and gender-nonconforming people who are sexually assaulted, physically assaulted, and harassed by aggressive heterosexuals. In Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America, several accomplished non-heterosexual servicemembers testified about the harassment and degradation they were subjected to by their fellow servicemembers for being gay.

Unruh and Donnelly, of course, fail to consider the possibility of heterosexuals assaulting and engaging in acts of "corrective rape" against LGB people.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

MRAs: Just Trust Us On This, K?

[Content note: MRA aggression, eliminationist rhetoric]

Got into a fun convo with some MRAs in the comment section of a truly craptastic MRA article called "Why the US Economy is Biased Against Men" that The Atlantic, for some reason, decided to publish.

Echidne, per usual, does an admirable job of countering the article itself, so I'm not going to take that on today.

Instead, I want to talk about a recurring meme of MRA "argumentation": That if women are outperforming men in school, then that, in and of itself, is "proof" that women have been given some sort of unfair, special advantage over men.

Observe an interaction. In comments, tchalla_wkanda first claims:

"Women do get special privileges, from affirmative action to special, women-only organizations. That much is true."

Note here, that this claim is made as though it's a self-evident truth requiring no further support or evidence. The claim is also, as such claims often are, devoid of the historical context in which "special, women-only organizations" and historical affirmative action programs sprung up.

The affirmative action claim is particularly inapt, since it is now men who are given special preferences in college admissions over more-qualified, more intelligent, more disciplined, and harder-working women in order to even out the gender ratios on campuses. I noted this, saying:
"these days, lesser-qualified men are actually often admitted to colleges over more well-qualified and harder working women, for the sake of 'gender balance.' See also, 'The Quiet Preference For Men in Admissions.'"
Oh my. Did that inconvenient glitch in the "women only do well in school 'cuz they get special favors" narrative not go over well with some of the guys. One frequent MRA commenter (also an MRA blogger) was utterly outraged over my comment, quickly devolving into aggression. He incoherently responded to my comment accordingly:
"Wow, what a moron. Citing YOUR OWN source the government formed a 'Civil Rights Commission's investigation of male preferences in college admissions policies' and sued universities which were suspected in giving male AA. THEY GOT SUED FOR THAT! while in my STEM top 10 university 50% of women are here based on affirmative action. Yes, 50%. I am against all AA, but if it is given to girls it should be given to boys, just to spite people like you."
Now, before addressing this comment, I want to note the entitlement and unwarranted overconfidence in their intellectual "prowess" that can be observed in interacting with many MRAs. That's pretty relevant to the above-mentioned meme of women outperforming men in college, yes?

Some of these guys think they're intellectually superior compared to women, even when they're not, so they just can't fathom the notion of women actually genuinely being better at college than them. Hence, the outrage. Women, we are to believe, are unfairly stealing men's god-given places in the world as the ultimate intellectuals.

Then, there's the entitlement MRAs often have to direct extremely hostile aggression toward women (and men) who disagree with them or, worse, who don't prioritize their MRA concerns. This particular fellow, upon finding out that Echidne and I run feminist blogs, began referring to us in eliminationist rhetoric as "feminist scum," saying that we weren't even worth interacting with because it was a "waste of time" and we'd never change our minds. Like, I thought we're just having a convo, but suddenly dude is screaming in ALL CAPS and calling people "morons."

 Instead of engaging in a serious, civil conversation, many MRAs take the approach of Agree With Us, Give Us What We Demand, Or We'll Tear Shit Up! Men Are ANGRY! RARRRRRR

It's not a surprise that MRAs are now being monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their perpetuation of hate and aggression.

In my nearly every interaction with them, they have railed and wailed against alleged feminist "misandry" while simultaneously creating Internet environments where it's completely acceptable for major (and minor) figures in the movement to call modern women "shallow, self-serving wastes of human existence", and to have no other MRA commenter in the conversation note how frickin creepy and inappropriate that sentiment is. Like, dude's just saying out loud what the others are thinking.

Such a sentiment directed at "modern men" would not be tolerated at the vast majority of feminist blogs.

Relatedly, this reliance on anger, aggression, and (dare I say?) emotion, really seems to get in the way of some of these guys' ability to form solid arguments. Sure, they herald themselves as courageous, supreme, non-PC "truth-tellers," but their rantings are mostly bravado devoid of serious argument.

Note in the above example how this frothing, angry guy seems to sincerely think that his unsupported anecdotal evidence of women getting preferences at his STEM school somehow "rebuts" the article I cited that notes that men are generally given admissions preferences.

Like, can't there be room for both things to be happening? Maybe at some STEM schools, women are given preferences due to the under-representation of women in STEM. But, in many undergrad programs, it's men who are given preferences, for the sake of achieving gender balance on campuses.

Instead of being cognizant of any sort of nuance, dude is ignoring my argument and suddenly writing in all caps and calling people morons and scum. And that, make no mistake, is entitled behavior. He's hostile. He doesn't make a good argument or write clearly, but he expects people to agree with him.

And, the truly sad thing is that he (and his MRA compatriots who "liked" his comments) seem to think he's making awesome, stellar "counter-points." Some really Big-Time "gotchas." (See, eg, Dunning-Kruger). They're like the raving, paranoid men who hang out at popular MRA sites and upvote comments about how Modern Western Women Are Useless, Slutty Sperm-Burglars Who Live Off Of Vaginamoney From the Government.

 (Yes, really. Apparently "vaginamoney" is a thing).

The general purpose seems to be to cut women down in order to build men up. It is, of course, no surprise that the men I was engaging with in this particular discussion quickly began trying to denigrate me by calling me a "bitter spinster" and suggesting that I lived alone with my many cats (commentary that many of their brethren "liked").

These interactions demonstrate that many of these guys just do not think rationally. They only think they do because they've been socialized into thinking men are rational, competent, and superior and that women are hysterical, incompetent, and inferior. And they still think that women, apparently, consider it The Worst Thing Ever when men withhold their approval from us and strip us of our sexual appeal in the eyes of the apparently all-important heterosexual male gaze.

Likewise, some boys and men are socialized into thinking that the world is their oyster, and so when they find out that shit isn't just going to be handed to them, that they might have to actually compete with women as equals, and that people won't just automatically agree with them just because they're Saying Things While Male, they can't handle it. They see it as some sort of feminist conspiracy, evidence of "misandry" and "discrimination" against men.

Accordingly, they often cite the fact that women outperform men in college as proof, in and of itself, that men are being "discriminated" against. As though, women can't possibly be doing better than men because we're, on average, less entitled, we work harder, or we are more disciplined (or gawd forbid, more intelligent) than men. Nope, apparently our success is only because we've been given "unfair advantages" and the whole entire system is rigged against boys and men. Observe how Rafael chimes in:
"To be more clear boys are discriminated against in public school earning lower grades in high school. Secondary schools undo some -but not all - of this discrimination in order to restore some of the gender balance."
Okay. But how? How are boys discriminated against, exactly? Who is doing this discrimination? What exactly is happening? This unsupported conclusion is supposed to be convincing to other people why now? I'm open to a convo about the topic, but will I just take his word for it that the whole entire economy and all our schools are being "unfair" to men?

So, I noted:
"Citation needed. That boys earn lower grades, in and of itself, is not 'proof' that boys are being discriminated against. You have to support that contention with evidence and arguments."
To which "Parry" responded:
"Stop trying to use references as an excuse. Everyone knows that they are. It's common fact."

Don't you love the notion that asking a man to support his arguments with evidence is just an "excuse"? As though, ah yes, it is a man speaking, let us all all bow in deep reverence to his truth-telling ways and accept his statement as objective fact.

Like I said, sheer entitlement: There's a War On Boys. Er, um....just trust us on this one, kthx!

Again, this unwillingness to support their arguments is a recurring theme in my interaction with MRAs. The sketchy substantiation was also noted as a glaring flaw in the original Atlantic piece.

Likewise, when The Good Men Project ran its feature on MRAs, and I noted that one of the pieces purporting to explain the "Top 10" MRA issues lacked supporting evidence, several MRAs instructed me on how to use The Google and said I should find references to support the MRA author's claims myself. Because gawd forbid anyone expect Boy Genius to, you know, actually support his arguments in his freakin' MRA manifesto that he was using to try to persuade people into agreeing with him. It's like, you ask an MRA to support his arguments and, jeez, we're being so unfair! Can't we all just, like, believe him about stuff? Men are angry RARRRRRR!

So, instead of backtracking and supporting their claims, they instead often just get even more pissed that people, for good reason, don't take them seriously.

It's like much of the movement right now is this vicious circle of anger, hostility, persecution complex, entitlement, venting, feminist-bashing, and incompetence. To expect them to back up their arguments, think critically about the laundry list of statistics they sometimes parrot about men's issues, and, let alone, to do anything that actually impacts the issues men face is to expect entirely too much.

After all, if they can't just snap their fingers and make things better for men, there's no point in even trying.

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Observation About "Concerned" Public Health Advocates

You know how some people opposed to LGBT rights claim that they're opposed to homosexuality because it make them sad when their gay friends get HIV?

Such people often claim that they don't hate gay people or anything, they are just Concerned Public Health Advocates who want gay people ("gay people," of course, meaning only men who have sex with men, since non-heterosexual women are often invisible in these discussions) To Be Aware Of The Risks Associated With Their Chosen Lifestyle.

Isn't it interesting, then, when those who oppose homosexuality also oppose effective HIV prevention and education messaging aimed at men who have sex with men? 

The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) is all ass-over-heels on its fainting couch about NIH-funded research that was investigating how to target HIV messaging to men who seek sex with other men via Internet. TVC encourages its supporters to sign a petition saying:
"I join the hundreds of thousands of Americans in support of Traditional Values Coalition and their efforts to stop the National Institutes of Health's wasteful, offensive funding of bizarre and ridiculous -- and in some cases, truly horrific -- rewarding of grants that serve no purpose other than to fund liberal projects and oddities America simply cannot afford."
Gee, it's almost like they actually want queer men to get HIV.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Another Things To Be Scared Of On Flights

From the CDC's latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:

"On August 5, 2011, a bat flew through the cabin of a commercial airliner minutes after takeoff during an early morning flight from Wisconsin to Georgia, potentially exposing the passengers and flight crew to rabies virus."

You're welcome.

That incident reminds me of the time I had a bat swooping around inside my apartment. When I called animal control, the guy was like, "Be very careful. Bats have tiny, razor-sharp teeth and they can bite you without you knowing it, giving you rabies. In fact, you might already be bitten. Welp, I'll be there tomorrow."


Consider this an open thread.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Condescending Dude Review of Hunger Games

In general, I found this review of The Hunger Games movie to be kind of condescending.

First, the title (which, of course, may not have been the author's):

"'The Hunger Games': A lightweight Twi-pocalypse"


The comparisons some people make to Twilight truly boggle my mind. The basic reasoning process seems to be, well, both books were written by women and are about a young female protagonist who likes two different guys therefore they're virtually indistinguishable.

And in what logical universe is The Hunger Games more "lightweight" than the notoriously fluffy Twilight?

Kinda ridiculous.

The critic then makes a couple of ticky-tacky complaints that, apparently for him, doom the whole entire film. One, he finds the concept of state censorship and control of information to be completely implausible. And two, he is skeptical of the clothing that the women wear in District 12. "Have blue jeans for women and indoor plumbing been abolished?" he parenthetically asks.

Expounding upon these totally deep critiques, he says:

"If that sounds like too much intellectual heavy lifting to apply to a girl-centric action-romance that mashes up a bunch of disparate influences and ingredients, from Greek mythology to Orwell to Stephen King, well, it probably is. My point is that the patchwork of 'The Hunger Games' never really holds together or makes any sense, except as an elementary fairy tale about a young girl’s coming of age and an incipient romantic triangle (which is the focus of the film, far more than the book)."

Disregarding that totally-gross first sentence.... the "romantic triangle" is the "focus of the film"?


Indeed, because the film doesn't give us access to Katniss' inner thoughts in the way that the books, written in first-person narrative, do, the "romantic triangle" is far less of a theme than in the books. The major overt reference to the "romantic triangle" that I remember include a short clip of Gale Looking Sad While Peeta and Katniss Kiss Onscreen.

Indeed, this inapt critique seems to tell us more about how the critic might view a female character than it does about how the character was actually portrayed. Oh hai, there's a girl. What is her relation to the guys in the movie?

Another telling parenthetical*:

"(In the book, you couldn’t be quite sure Katniss wasn’t a lesbian, at least at first.)"

Okay. I'd maybe grant him that when I read the books I was hoping Katniss was a lesbian in a wishful-thinking kinda way. But that's only because lesbians can read lesbian subtext into anything.

But still, the general rule, unfortunately, is that characters are heterosexual unless stated otherwise. The critic's reasoning process seems to be that any lady character who isn't continually thinking about, pining over, and 100% confident with respect to boys, is possibly a lesbian.

*What's up with all the parentheticals, anyway? Sometimes they're an appropriate way to convey information, but oftentimes the information in parentheses should be supplemental or concessionary in nature. And not, like, an unsupported contentious conclusion.

Back in Legal Writing, one rule we learned was that parenthetical statements should usually be avoided when constructing an argument. That's because, oftentimes, people tend to use them to throw in supplemental information that they fail to support, in a classic instance of telling, rather than showing.

Likewise, in this particular piece, some of the critic's most contentious, interesting, and/or annoying points were placed in unexplained, unelaborated-upon parentheses. Like that lesbian bit, above. He just says Katniss seems like a lesbian in the book, he doesn't tell us why he thinks that or how she is apparently acting like a lez.

It's as though, if an argument or claim is in parentheses it's automatically true and doesn't require evidence- and if countered, the critic can back up with hir hands in the air and say, "What, it was just a passing thought. Why are you being such a stickler?"

But, whatevs. That's probably too much intellectual heavy lifting to apply to a film review.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Movie Review: Leading Ladies

My favorite "gay and lesbian movies with a strong female lead" tend to be both relatively obscure and catch me by surprise.

I had never heard of Leading Ladies until I was sleepily browsing Streaming Internet Movie Service one weekday night. As I read its description, I was intrigued but, of course, didn't have my hopes up. The Dead/Evil/Psycho Lesbian cliche has simply broken my heart one too many times, friends.

But alas, as I continued watching Leading Ladies, it dawned on me that this movie I had never heard of was actually.... good.

Imagine, if you will, a campy, lesbian Dirty Dancing minus the botched abortion, Johnny Castle, and watermelon carrying.

First, we have our protagonist, Toni, who is a quiet, somewhat dry, and androgynously-cute woman who has accepted being in her conventionally-attractive, feminine, star-ballroom-dancer sister's shadow. As a character, Toni is like a mashup of Darlene Connor and Willow Rosenberg. Which for some queer gals, and by "some" I mean "me," goes a long way. She also (spoiler alert!), at the beginning of the film, apparently doesn't know she's a lesbian yet.

Toni is surrounded by her sister Tasi, their melodramatic stage mother Sheri, and Tasi's (gay male) dance partner Cedric.

Tasi and Cedric are training for a ballroom dancing competition when their plans are derailed by Tasi's pregnancy. Toni decides to sub in for her sister on the condition that she get to choose her own partner. Her chosen partner is another woman- someone she met at a gay bar, while out one night with Cedric.

Lesbian shenanigans then ensue.

For instance, while at her first gay bar, Toni comes to a non-climactic realization of her own sexual orientation. After dancing with a woman, she's in the bathroom looking in the mirror trying to decide whether to leave her shirt partially unbuttoned.

A drag queen walks up to wash her hands in the sink next to Toni, sizes Toni up, and asks, "Is she hot?"

To which Toni first responds with a defensive, "No!" and then, a split second later, mutters a resigned, "....yes."

And, meh, that's it.

She's gay. She knows it. No big meltdown necessary. Which is how it sometimes actually is for people. Sometimes, certainly for me, the suckiest part about realizing I was gay wasn't the Being Gay part, but the part where other people seemed to care so much that I was gay.

Anyway, compared to the action-y D.E.B.S., the silly But I'm a Cheerleader, and the we're-just-kidding-or-are-we Itty Bitty Titty Committee, this plot perhaps doesn't sound like the most exciting. But, I found it to be a charming coming-out/sexual awakening story.

I like my female protagonists strong and possessing equanimity. And Toni, played by Laurel Vail, is a compelling performer as the composed "eye of the storm" around which the showier, more turbulent characters revolve.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Talking Gay Without Feminism

[TW/Content note: Implied sexual assault "joke"]

While reading a piece at the Independent Gay Forum on Blankenhorn and Marquardt's opposition to North Carolina's proposed anti-gay amendment, a man who opposes same-sex marriage but apparently LOVES the gays left the following comment, in part:

"I’m straight. I’m so straight I have no idea how to decorate a home, and I am unable to communicate with a woman on a meaningful basis, or any basis for the last 15 years or so. So, hopefully you can appreciate I have some experience here.

First off, I don’t think anyone should discriminate against gays. I love the gays. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been carried home from a pub, too drunk to look after myself at the time, and been welcomed into a gay man’s bed. They are SO sharing.

But gay men should not be allowed to marry." (emphasis added)

A-wha? That's a thing? The inability to communicate with The Female Of The Species is an indicator of male heterosexuality? In what universe is that rational? Wouldn't it make more sense for dude to be gay if he found women to be so.... different and Other than him?

How interesting.

So many assumptions are revealed.

For one, note the total absence of queer women from the conversation. Not only do women not appear to be participating in the convo, but the "gay marriage" issue is the pressing, male-centric one: "Gay men should not be allowed to marry."

And women? Meh. Just a buncha dudes talking to other dudes about dudes' rights! (In a totally straight way, though). Which, you know, is fine to do. But let's not pretend what's happening in such a discussion is some sort of Universal Conversation about all humans.

I'm reminded of when raging bigots cite the alleged ickyness of anal sex, or HIV rates in men who have sex with men, as a reason to deny all LGBT people equality. In my experience, such bigots often don't know how to react when confronted with the fact (a) oh yeah, queer women exist too, and (b) the CDC has confirmed no case of female-to-female sexual transmission of HIV. Ever.

Heterosexual men, especially those who oppose LGBT rights, center gay men in their Very Important Conversations About Gays a lot. In many of their heads, Default Gay Person is often a white, cis, well-to-do, somewhat effeminate gay man. Think Jack from "Will and Grace."

Two, and related, notice the comment author's lazy reliance on stereotypes.

Gay men love decorating hardy har har and, in fact, being a gay man is practically like being a woman. So much so that gay men can even speak Woman-Talk, unlike the commenter, who is SO STRAIGHT he doesn't even know how to talk to a woman "on a meaningful basis"! (See also, Men/Mars, Women/Venus).

This is, I contend, what happens when people talk about gay issues while not being feminist.

In such environments, women are invisibilized or marginalized, and homosexuality is often conflated with gender identity. When we are discussed, women are largely Othered, while men are discussed as though they exist on a binary of heterosexual/masculine or homosexual/feminine, with nary a shade of gray.

And rape "jokes." Those are often okay too. Because presenting gay men as sexual predators and straight men as victims is apparently hilarious. (Don't worry, feminists, I'm sure the MRAs will somehow still blame us for this too).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weightlifting While Female

Writing a short piece at Women Talk Sports, Mariah Philips asks:

"It may now be OK for women to be strong. But how strong? Why does it remain socially prickly for women to lift large amounts of weight? Why must women struggle to preserve socially condoned images of femininity while they try to honor an athletic identity that challenges those gender norms?"

She is writing in the context of being a college softball player who regularly lifts weights.

In my experience, in over 20 years of weightlifting and participating in various athletic endeavors, all of the gyms I have worked out in over the years have operated on an unspoken, unwritten rule of gender segregation that, I believe, is due mostly to pervasive gender role policing and conditioning. The Rules are that men should lift free weights and maybe do a little cardio and that women should do cardio and maybe use the weightlifting machines.

So yeah, I certainly know of the social prickliness that Philips refers to.

My years of having men (and some women) tell me that "the goal of weightlifting for women isn't to get big and strong," of offering me unsolicited (and often poor) advice, and of coaches and trainers acting as though weightlifting is crucial for male athletes and optional for female athletes has ingrained in me that it's not..... socially safe to be a woman who is actually lifting weights to in order to get stronger and, gawb forbid, bigger.

Gender narratives emanating from multiple sources, in a nutshell, inform us that men should work out in order to become large and strong and that women should work out in order to become thin and to get "toned." Becoming strong and healthy is, according to a lot of "fitness" advice, a tangential side effect of working out while female. It's a bonus, but not necessary to being "fit." Apparently.

Many women, in fact, express concern to various personal trainers about not wanting to "get big muscles." They want to keep themselves small, even if that means being weaker than they could be. And, I don't think that's a desire all women are just inherently born with. I think it's something women, for the most part, learn from society.

The other day, I was recently browsing Internet for some tips on increasing my bench press. I like being strong. I like lifting weights. I like feeling powerful. Being strong, I believe, helps me be a better athlete. And, it at least gives me the confidence that I could stand a chance in a self-defense situation.

Interesting how gender role policing seeks to take that confidence away from women.

Also interesting is that every. single. article. that I found, regarding the bench press issue, assumed that the reader was male. And, the advice many of the articles offered went along the lines of "never stop eating" and "use supplements."

That sort of advice just isn't given to women.

And, in this way, are inherent biological differences further exaggerated between men and women: Imagine the body of a man who lifts heavy weights, never stops eating protein, and is on supplements, compared to a woman who doesn't lift weights, avoids protein out of fear of getting "big," and who is restricting her diet.

Ya think they might look different? Ya think they might have different levels of strength?

And yet, these are the images that are often used to "prove" how different men and women Just Naturally Are. How "inherently" strong men are compared to women. How men Just Love To Eat Their Man Food, while women just love eating, like, half a salad.

Now, contrary to straw caricatures of feminist arguments, I don't think patriarchy is a literal group of men sitting around a table twirling their mustaches thinking of ways to keep women weak. (It would be easier to counter if it were). But, I do think it's a win for patriarchy- as a social system that enforces gender roles in a myriad of ways- when we ignore the ways that gender policing, body shaming, and fat-hatred operate together to make women feel as though it's "socially prickly" (at best) to lift heavy weights.

Friday, April 13, 2012

You Heard It From An Anti-Feminist

[Content note: gender policing, violent imagery]

So says Crystal Wright, in a ridiculously-ignorant article bemoaning how feminism has apparently turned men into deadbeats and Peter Pans:

"Time article 'Women, Money & Power' glorified the new Pan trend of stay at home dads and female bread winners. The writer notes 'Danny graduated from the University of Michigan and took a job in finance, but he rebelled at the crushing hours. So in the mid-'90s, he left to become a stay-at-home dad to his two daughters.' My first reaction was how pathetic and Danny needs to man up.

I would argue the majority of women don’t like this role reversal and if they had guns held to their heads would admit it as much[*]. Time writer Liza Mundy observed 'One university vice president admitted that when she was dating, she took pains not to let men walk her to her car, for fear her BMW might make them feel inadequate.'

Women need to start making men feel inadequate and force them to act like men not boys again." (emphasis added)

I seriously had to read that last bit a couple times, not being sure if it was a typo. I was like, "Wait, did she-? Is she really saying-? What?"

I hope the MRAs are listening, because that statement really is a great summation of anti-feminism and gender traditionalism.

Under that worldview, people are not individuals with free will and unique abilities and capacities. Instead, based, solely on one's biological sex, the notion is that one must engage in certain activities because engaging in those activities is just what people of that sex do. If one doesn't engage in those activities, anti-feminists and traditionalists posit, then people should be shamed and made to feel inadequate.

Don't worry though, friends, I'm sure the MRAs will frame this anti-feminist woman's literal call to make men feel inadequate as somehow being The Feminists fault too, continue to ignore the way gender traditionalists shame men, and fixate their aggressive obsession primarily on us feminists. That's just how they roll.

*Aside from the really messed up violent imagery there (hmmmm, wishful thinking, is she?), I don't think that "holding a gun" statement means what Crystal Wright thinks it means.

Wouldn't most people admit to practically anything if they had a gun held to their heads? If one wants get people to admit to things they supposedly are "too PC" to admit to, wouldn't it be better to hook them up to a lie detector test rather than hold a gun to their heads and make them say it or else? #thinkbeforeyouwrite

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blankenhorn and Marquardt Oppose NC Anti-Gay Amendment

For what it's worth, same-sex marriage opponents David Blankenhorn and Elizabeth Marquardt of the Institute for American Values (and Family Scholars Blog, where I guest post sometimes), have come out in opposition of a proposed amendment to North Carolina's constitution.

The amendment, they believe (and I agree), "goes too far." Namely, it would prohibit the state from recognizing any sort of union between a same-sex couple- including marriage, domestic partnerships, and civil unions. While the amendment would allow private citizens to "contract" with each other for some rights, it is worth noting here that many rights are associated with legal unions that cannot, actually, be contracted for- such as health insurance, social security benefits, right to sue for loss of consortium and wrongful death, and immigration rights.

David and Elizabeth write:

"That’s mighty cold. If you disdain gay and lesbian persons, and don’t care whether they and their families remain permanently outside of the protection of our laws, such a policy might be your cup of tea. But it’s not our view, and we doubt that it’s the view of most North Carolinians.

If you want to create a backlash against mother-father marriage – if you want to convince people that the real agenda of marriage advocates is not protecting marriage, but ignoring and ostracizing gay people – then this amendment might be to your liking. But we believe that the cause of marriage is hurt, not helped, by gratuitously linking it to the cause of never under any circumstances helping gay and lesbian couples."

Despite our disagreement over marriage equality, I am sincerely grateful that they have publicly opposed such a measure.

I said "for what it's worth" up at the top of this post because I'm just not sure those who are motivated by actual, genuine, overt anti-gay animus will do the same.

Extreme groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), I believe, attempt to portray a relatively civil face of "marriage defense," claiming that they don't have anything against same-sex couples, they just want every child to have a mom and a dad. However, many LGBT people believe for good reason that bigotry does the bulk of the work for these anti-equality groups, accounting for nearly all of the various "marriage defense" victories.

In The Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart is stunned by David and Elizabeth's opposition to the amendment, and I think that is quite telling.

When those who make their livelihoods "defending marriage" aren't outright denigrating LGBT people, they mostly ignore the impact their various measures have on our lives.

Most notable to me, for instance, in a recent Salon piece on NOM's Maggie Gallagher, wasn't her professed un-bigotedness, but that she doesn't appear to think much about gay people 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.

As Capehart writes:

"For the first time that I’ve ever seen, proponents of 'traditional marriage' acknowledge and express concern for gay and lesbian families."

I'm not surprised by David and Elizabeth's opposition to the amendment. I blog with them, have conversations with them, and have seen them express many times their belief that same-sex couples are deserving of dignity. To them, the issues seems to be complicated, an issue of the competing public goods of protecting same-sex couples versus not severing the link between marriage and procreation.

What I am surprised by is their willingness to express their conservative-politically-incorrect view in an op-ed piece that could potentially have actual, real-world repercussions on the amendment initiative. For that at least, they have my admiration and gratitude.

In any event, whether this amendment passes in North Carolina will be a good test, I think, as to the real agenda of most "marriage defense" advocates.

Is it really about saving marriage for couples capable of procreation, or is it about that and something more sinister- the marginalization and degradation of homosexuality, same-sex couples, and LGBT people?

[Cross-posted: Alas]

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ashley Judd Stands Up For Women

[Cross-posted at Family Scholars Blog]

Ashley Judd, in the Daily Beast, notes:

"The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted....

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women."

Say, what am I doing posting this piece at Family Scholars Blog (FSB) anyway?

Well, conversation about women's bodies- pregnancy, bodily autonomy, gamete donation- are a part of the regular discourse at FSB. As we question and debate these issues and practices, how might they relate to some of these other narratives about women's bodies and who gets to control them and how they get talked about?

Also, I often wonder, how many women are turned away from feminism in general, and feminist analyses like these in particular, because know-nothing "critics" of feminism like Rush Limbaugh threaten women with loss of the Real Woman Card if they dare embrace feminism? (Limbaugh's infamous, ignorant quote about feminism is easily found on Internet, so I won't re-print it here.)

How do upholders of the patriarchy drive wedges between women as they pick apart our appearance, engage in gender role policing, and act as though there is only one correct and authentic way to be a Real Women?

Another interesting tidbit. Notice the headline of the Judd article:

"Ashley Judd Slaps Media in the Face for Speculation Over Her Puffy Appearance"

Writers don't generally write the headlines of their pieces as major media outlets. I doubt Judd wrote that headline, either. But it is telling, isn't it?

In the article, Judd is standing up for herself and for other women, imploring that our appearances not be endlessly critiqued and used to diminish our self-worth. And that, we are to believe, is an instance of Judd inflicting aggression on the media. She is, we are to believe, "slapping" an institution/people in the face?

Notice the flip-flop that's going on- the way that a feminist is accused, even figuratively, of being the violent aggressor.

In this way is feminism further defamed in service of patriarchy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Crappy Review of Left Behind II

So, over the weekend, my partner and I watched Left Behind II: Tribulation Forces, starring Kirk Cameron.

(Unfortunately, our Streaming Movie Service didn't have the first Left Behind movie- *Sad Trombone*)

Anyway, do you know what this film series is about? If not, the series was originally a multi-volume book series dealing with the "End Times" as articulated by some Christians. You know, the Antichrist, the tribulations, the good people (ie- the Christians) disappearing to "Heaven" with everyone else being.... left behind on earth.

So, prime blogging material, right?

Or so I thought.

Turns out I could only get like halfway through the movie before I fell asleep. (I really did fall asleep, I'm not speaking metaphorically about how boring the movie was. Which, it was boring. But, also... really bad. And I was tired.)

Also turns out that I watched The Hunger Games movie this weekend, so that was quite the contrast.

Most of all, I was really struck at how male-centric Left Behind II was. In the rare film with a heroic female protagonist, men are rarely relegated solely to the role of relatively-mute eye candy/love interest whose most defining character trait is his relationship or devotion to the female protagonist.

Buffy, for instance, was surrounded by a group of men, many of whom could have carried their own series (and two of which have- Angel was created as a spin-off show, and Spike had his own comic book series). In Alias, Sydney Bristow had like one female friend, the rest of her interactions being primarily male friends and agents whose defining characteristics were not solely being Sydney's friend/relative/love interest. Xena, too, in addition to her "best pal" Gabrielle, was surrounded by male gods, male enemies, male allies, and the insufferable Joxer- all of whom had identities independent of their relationships with Xena. Scully, who was paired with her male partner Mulder rarely interacted with other women.... and I could continue.

Likewise was Peeta, the male lead, in Hunger Games a hero in his own right. He had strength, empathy, relative well-roundedness, and also flaws. One could, in fact, imagine a film or book centering him. 15 years ago, perhaps, the film would have been about him, rather than about Katniss. (See also, "In praise of Joanne Rowling's Hermione Granger series").

Unfortunately, many male-centric action/hero movies don't treat female characters quite as well. That exclusionary treatment, rather than the subject matter, is why I believe the genre has largely failed female audiences and have led some to the erroneous conclusion that girls and women just aren't into actiony ker-pow types of movies.

Male-centric action movies/shows consist primarily of men having Very Important alliances and conflicts with other men. Unlike the portayal of men in shows that feature female heros, any women portrayed are often most notable solely for their relationship to the men. Rarely do they possess the talents, competence, and (super)humanity on par with the male characters.

Male heroes, it seems, require women to stand around being in awe of them. What, for many girls and women, is to like about such movies and shows?

In Left Behind, we have a dude protagonist, as portrayed by Cameron, whose name is the ridiculously wannabe-bad-assedly-named "Buck" Williams. Buck rides a motorcycle and rolls his eyes at his superiors at work, just so we know what a badass dude he is.

We have his gaggle of born-again Christian friends who are, apparently, the "Tribulation Force" (ker-pow!)-which, in addition to Buck, consists of a male pastor, a male friend, and the male friend's daughter, Chloe.

I'm pretty sure the vast majority of Chloe's on-screen presence consisted of her standing in the background, looking pretty, looking scared, and asking the men questions. Because, unlike her, they're men and they Know Things. And so they have to Explain Things to her about what's going on, what's going to happen next, and what their manly plans are.

She of course (um, spoiler alert?) becomes Buck-the-Bad-Ass' love interest and eventual wife. So, in all, her major character traits turn out to be her relationships to men- she's a daughter, she becomes a wife, she becomes a Christian who worships a male god, and then she eventually becomes (spoiler alert!) a martyr. Literally.

In the hour or so I watched the movie, she only talked to one other woman, a woman who played Bad Slut to Chloe's Good Virgin. And in that brief conversation the two ladies, of course, talked only about Buck, seeing themselves as rivals for his love and attention. (LOL! Lucky them!)

I don't know. The portrayal really just made me sad for her, and for other women who accept this type of Christianity. Look at what this movie tells them their place is- to sit silently while the men Explain Everything to them. To know that wholesomeness and the approval of men can be stripped of them if they step out of line in any way and refuse to submit. To be self-sacrificial for the greater good of worshiping an exclusionary, extremely-violent male deity.

Gawd, give me a bow and arrows and drop me in the arena. Going down fighting would at least be infinitely more interesting than making googly eyes at Kirk Cameron while he explained shit to me.

Anyway, in all, I found the movie to be pretty ridiculous propaganda on par with an Ayn Rand novel.

The "antichrist" is also portrayed. Naturally, he's also a man and, from what I gathered, the Secretary General of the United Nations. He also has a really bad Russian(?) accent that he sometimes forgets to speak with. I don't know. According to Wikipedia, the character is actually supposed to be from Romania and he's the product of "genetic engineering and artificial insemination."

Of course.

If one was a child, I imagine the notion of being left behind to suffer in torment forever unless you accept jesus would be rather frightening and would compel one to become a Christian.

But as an adult.... I can only think...really people? No. Really?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Quote of the Day

"I never pick a fight for which I am not prepared to bleed; those who throw stones should know, a bloody wound provides ink for my motherfucking pen..."

-Staceyann Chin

Love her.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Question of the Day

Did Dottie Hinson drop the ball on purpose?


I also want to take a minute to thank you for reading and/or commenting here in general. I know I usually do most of the "talking" here, but I do appreciate hearing from you. With the exception of the occasional troll, miscreant, and scoundrel, I find many of your comments and perspectives to be interesting, entertaining, funny, and thoughtful. I'm so appreciative of the way Internet can connect people who, for the most part, share similar feminist/progressive values.

Anyway, I'm not good at all this sappy stuff, so let's talk about sports and discussing the ridiculousness of MRAs. Or whatever. It's Friday!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Boys Need Boy Food

From a recent Smithsonian magazine article, entitled "The Basque Revolution," about Basque cuisine in America:

"If you happen to be at the Noriega Hotel, the only Bakersfield Basque place that still functions as a boardinghouse, this procession of dishes, known as a 'set-up,' is only half of the meal. The set menu changes daily, but there will typically be a tureen of lamb or beef stew, a plate of overboiled spaghetti in tomato sauce, and finally the main course of fried chicken or baked spare ribs or leg of lamb accompanied by vast platters of hand-cut French fries that still have the flavor of the field about them. If you are a 9-year-old boy, you will be given a vast scoop of sherbet, and after dinner you will throw a tennis ball around the adjoining tennis court while your parents linger at the bar for a last Picon Punch." [emphasis added]

And if you are a girl? (Ho ho! As if!) You will get to lick a stamp for dessert, after which you will proceed to sit daintily and mutely while the grown-ups finish their drinks.

But seriously now.

Unless this particular restaurant literally only gives boys sherbet (which would be a whole 'nother issue), why does the author inject gender into this piece in this way?

Would it have been that difficult to just say "If you're a 9-year-old" and leave gender out of it? Why alienate at least half of one's readership with the presumption that sherbet is a boy thang? Is one presuming that one's readership, that "you" the author initially references, is comprised of men?

I realize that there are Worse Things In The World for a feminist to criticize, but yes, this kind of casual, subtle instance of gender policing is a legitimate microaggression nonetheless.

It plays on the narrative that it's charming, endearing, and wholesome for boys to have Big Appetites and to Love Ice Cream A Whole Bunch, because the goal of being a boy is to eventually get big and strong- to take up space in the world. Eating and liking to eat is, to some, how boys and men demonstrate "authentic" masculinity.

Girls and women who love to eat, have big appetites, like ice cream, and who are larger than the beauty standards governing the ladies say that we should be are, meanwhile, subtly told that we are masculine. Because, naturally, men and women are complementary, opposites. This, despite the fact that I reckon the majority of American women and girls do or are all of the above.


Man Food, Again

Men Need Man Food

I Eat

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quote of the Day

When one of my good friends passed away last summer, I began re-reading Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart.

In it, she talks about how living is like rowing a boat into the middle of the lake, knowing that it's going to sink. Perhaps oddly, I found this consoling. One of the only things I believe in with respect to this world is impermanence. Denying this sets ourselves up for false hope. And, I'm learning to become more okay with that.

Chodron continues:

"The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. It is an issue that applies to everyone, including both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there's some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there's always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves."

Is this condescending to theists? Possibly. But, the human impulse toward religion, for many, does seem to come from an understandable need for certainty in an uncertain, ever-changing world.

I don't have any big, deep thought about this. I mostly just get sick of the notion that atheists are cowards who abandon religion so we can live our lives in wanton, immoral abandon. Perhaps some atheists fit that description, but, it also takes bravery to acknowledge the reality of impermanence.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Woman Dunks, Some Can't Handle It

[Content note: gender policing]

For those who don't follow basketball, Baylor University's Brittney Griner has had two impressive dunks in the NCAA Tournament.

Although I find it incredibly problematic to feed into the notion that the way for female basketball players to "prove" that they are Awesome Basketball Players is by dunking, we quickly learn that even when a woman authoritatively slams the rim with a two-handed dunk it's still not enough for the haters of women's sports.

Nothing a woman does will ever be enough.

For those sexists who deem themselves arbiters of True Athletic Prowess, the goalposts for who constitutes an authentic athlete worthy of fame, money, and attention are constantly shifting so that a woman can never be in that category.

Ramona Shelburne wrote a nice piece at ESPN on the topic
of women dunking (also included is footage of Griner's NCAA dunks):

"Whatever it was about Griner's dunks, it was enough to make folks uncomfortable and uncomfortable enough to get nasty."

By "nasty," some commenters have stooped to the low of questioning Griner's biological sex. See a woman who's really good at basketball? Well, she can't possibly be a Real Woman! So entrenched is some people's belief that Good Athlete and Woman are mutually-exclusive categories.

In the article, former WNBA star Lisa Leslie added:

"'People are never really satisfied,' she said. 'I dunked and people said it was just one-handed. Now Brittney's dunked two-handed and people are like, 'Oh, there's only one person who can do that.'"

'I don't think any of us can ever live up to the expectations or things naysayers throw at us.'"

USC coach Michael Cooper added that Griner's dunks make people uncomfortable because she does it so easily and because dunking is one of the last moves that things male players do consistently that female players don't.

Interestingly, the article also notes that the first dunk in women's college basketball occurred in 1984. The coach of the opposing team was the only one with the game tape and, according to the ESPN article, he for some reason "essentially took it to his grave." The tape eventually resurfaced in 2009.

Just kind of shitty to think that I, and probably countless other girls, grew up believing that it was impossible for women to ever dunk.

Related: But but but Men Are Better!

Monday, April 2, 2012

On "Coed"

So, some people still refer to female college students as "coeds."

This usage, while correct from a definitional standpoint, is strange right?

A coeducational college is one that admits men and women. A coed sports' team, seen in many recreational leagues, is one that allows teams comprised of men and women.
And yet, a coed is "a woman who attends a coeducational college or university."

Wikipedia has a (totally unreferenced*) theory as to the history of using coed as slang to refer only to female college students, and explains it as an artifact of when institutions only allowed men. To elaborate, the idea seems to be that the default institution used to be a male-only one, with default male students who were, and are, just called "college students." It was the presence of women that made it "co-ed." Thus, female students were, and apparently still are, "co-eds." As though it is women, rather than the combination of men and women, that makes an institution coed.

Some people still use this old-timey word to describe female college students. And, they do so despite the fact that most institutions of higher learning in the US are coeducational, most college students are women, and women are outperforming men in college (as evidenced by affirmative action programs for less-qualified male students that many colleges have instituted ).

When people use "coed" today to refer to female college students, I most often see it used in two contexts.

One usage occurs when the speaker is being sexist against women in some way.

The other usage occurs when female college students are being sexualized and fetishized (as the Wikipedia article also notes).

The intent, if I may speculate, seems pretty backlash-y. Now that women have proven that they are capable of not only performing as men's equals in college, but of outperforming them, women need to be reminded of their perpetual status as Inferior Other and/or sex object.

Lest anyone forget.

(*The Wikipedia Talk page for the word is.... an interesting conversation)