Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Picture of the Day

My second favorite thing about this picture of two women (of whatevs actual sexual orientation) kissing in front of people at an anti-gay rally in France is the pearl-clutching, ass-over-heels-on-the-fainting-couch faces of those in the background who look like they're thinking (or possibly saying), "Well, I never!"

Except for that one lady who's all secretly like, "Now that's what I'm talking 'bout."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Awkward Book Review of the Day

So, I just had the awkward experience of excitedly buying my first lesbian fictional novel in years, Meredith Maran's A Theory of Small Earthquakes, only to find that it has perhaps the most unlikable protagonist I've met in a long time.

The premise of this book is that the protagonist goes to college, is lonely, has a crappy family life, and ends up meeting and falling in love with another female student. Who she met in a Women's Studies course. Taught by a caricature of a radical feminist lesbian and attended by other caricatures of radical feminists. Who she makes fun of.

But I digress, the main plot is that the protagonist and her girlfriend stay together for many years and then *spoiler alert* (is it a spoiler alert if the following Big Plot Reveal is explicitly stated within the Amazon summary of the book?) the protagonist cheats on her partner with a man, promptly has a baby with him, and ends up leaving the Lesbian Lifestyle specifically so she can have a more Normal Life (and why does living as a gay person always constitute living a "lifestyle," but those who live in heterosexual relationships are making a "life"?).

Anyway, so the premise of such a book is fine. Women leaving women for men, women leaving men for women- whatever, it all happens in real life and portraying that is fine.

What I found unlikable about the protagonist wasn't that she left her partner for a man, but that she took so many actions and had so many thoughts throughout the book that were incredibly homophobic, ashamed, anti-feminist, entitled, and self-centered. So much so that I consciously found myself rooting against her and rooting for all of the people she was hurting throughout the book-- her former partner, her boyfriend, and her child.

So, I guess this is more of an open thread.

What does one do when one reads a book that centers around such an unlikable character? Continue reading the book? I did, and finished it!  But that's mostly because I'm stubborn and persistent, not because I felt super compelled to Find Out What Happens. In fact, by the time *spoiler alert* the protagonist had convinced her ex-girlfriend to risk her health and become a surrogate for protagonist and her boyfriend, I cringed my way through the book with a "what the hell is she going to do next?" attitude.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Academic Men Explain Things To You?

Then post away.

One of my experiences isn't an "explain things" experience per se, but more of a micro-aggression experiences from a former job I held about 5 years ago. 

At my supervisor's request, I had agreed to supervise a summer legal intern who had just completed his first year of law school. Let's just call him Entitled Well-Connected Kid ("EWCK"). The internship was his due to his connections (yay invisible affirmative action for privileged white guys!) but he had sent his resume to our HR Director anyway, who then forwarded on the resume to me.

I noticed in the email that EWCK had very respectfully referred to our HR Director and my supervisor both as Mr. HR Director and Mr. Supervisor, granting them a formal level of deference. When I emailed him to schedule an interview, something I did mostly as a courtesy to give him practical interviewing experience, he emailed me back and casually addressed me by my first name.

Now, personally, while I think it's appropriate for grad and professional school students to refer to internship supervisors and professors by their first names, I did note the disparate, and less formal, way he referred to me compared to my male colleagues.

During the interview, he also inexplicably asked if I was an attorney.  He seemed to be under the impression that I was maybe my supervisor's administrative assistant. Despite the degree and job title that was in my email signature.

Lawyering while lady often means that one is assumed to be an assistant until proven otherwise.

It's also The Best and Definitely My Favorite when Internet Mansplainers (try to) explain legal concepts to me under the assumption that they automatically Know More Things about the law than I do. It's kind of sad how many instances of bigots and sexists making that assumption that I could cite over the years.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's Okay, He Was Just Quoting the Bible

Does it ever get awkward when, like, anti-equality groups feel the need to defend other anti-equality folks who say really abhorrent things?

Last week, Rev. Robert Anderson, a Baptist preacher, was on a panel discussing Maryland's same-sex marriage law. While on this panel he said that people who engage in same-sex sex are "worthy of death" and that:“If we don’t vote against [the same-sex marriage law], than we are approving these things that are worthy of death."

He was, apparently, quoting the Bible.

Which, to that I'd say, if your Bible suggests that two people engaging in same-sex sexual behavior is a capital offense, maybe it's time to re-think your interpretation, alleged "god's word," and/or entire religion.

I don't expect that to happen, of course.

What I do think is interesting is how Derek McCoy of the anti-equality group Maryland Marriage Alliance frames the convo:
“Any attempt to imply that Dr. Anderson’s reading of scripture was a call to harm gays and lesbians is false and serves as a distraction from the real issues of this campaign. The Maryland Marriage Alliance No on Question 6 campaign has been and remains focused on explaining to voters the good that marriage does for society, and the consequences that have occurred when marriage has been redefined elsewhere. From the beginning, we have been deeply committed to civility and honor the value of everyone’s human rights. Scripture tells us that all God’s children are made in his image and likeness, and we are called to speak truth through love. We continue to deplore violence or bullying against any person and or group of people on either side of this issue. [Emphasis Added]”
Just wondering, at what point does it become acceptable, in the minds of anti-equality advocates, to call speech bigoted, uncivil, and hateful?  Does such bigotry, incivility, and hatred ever exist against LGBT people, in their eyes?

When, if ever, will anti-equality advocates stop suggesting that our legitimate fear, pain, and suffering brought about by such cruel words is a mere political ploy enacted to distract people from so-called "real issues"?

I suggest that maybe, just maybe, the purported real issues of this campaign are inextricably linked to this purported side issue.  When anti-equality advocates understand that, they will have more credibility with respect to their claim that they're just Deeply Concerned About the Consequences of Redefining Marriage.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Conversations on Political Speech and Equality

A lively discussion has followed Barry Deutsch's post over at Family Scholars Blog regarding the recent case of a Chief Diversity Officer at a university being placed on leave for signing a petition asking for Maryland's marriage equality law to be put to a repeal vote.

This instance, naturally, is being used by anti-equality groups as further proof as to Why Same-Sex Marriage Is Bad, the substantive merits of same-sex marriage itself being irrelevant, I suppose.

Barry aptly points out many examples in which LGBT people and advocates of same-sex marriage have been fired for their jobs for being LGBT and/or because of their position on marriage equality- as opposed to, as happened to the Diversity Officer, being placed on leave and then reinstated. He further notes that these instances demonstrate that people being fired because of their identities and/or political beliefs is not a problem unique to opponents of equality, as their advocacy organizations like to lead their followers to believe.

Maggie Gallagher has directly responded to the post in comments but has thus far avoided answering the, in my opinion, most pressing points of Barry's posts and my commentary.

Check it out.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quote of the Day

I'm finally getting around to reading Julia Serano's book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. I'm sure I will post a full review when I finish the book, and I've already collected dozens of great quotes from it, but I'd like to highlight the following today:

Of the media and general public's nosy fascination with sex confirmation surgery, she writes:
"Personally, I am not bothered by the technical name of the surgery so much as I am by the fact that it gets so much attention in the media and the general public. After all, as someone who is not a cardiologist nor has ever had a heart condition, I really don't feel any compelling need to know all of the technical names or hear play-by-play accounts of heart surgeries. Nor do I need to know all of the specific names and doses of chemotherapies in order to be touched by the story of someone who has survived cancer. For this reason, I am rather disturbed by the fact that so many people- who are neither medical professionals nor trans themselves- would want to hear all of the gory details regarding transsexual physical transformations, or would feel that they have any right to ask us about the state of our genitals. It is offensive that so many people feel that it is okay to publicly refer to transsexuals as 'pre-op' or 'post-op' when it would so clearly be degrading and demeaning to regularly describe all boys and men as being either 'circumcised' of 'uncircumcised.'"
A few weeks ago, I was at a community meeting and watched somewhat in horror as a liberal, progressive man asked a transgender woman when she "fully transitioned," his assumptions being both that the woman had had surgery and that surgery is the Ultimate End Goal of all trans* people.

Why do people think that is an okay thing to ask, especially in public?

As Serano further notes, people seem especially interested in the state of the genitals of transgender women in particular, wondering if, when, and how the penis has been, as it's often put, "lopped off."

She further contends that this disproportionate interest in the state of the penis is evidence of our phallocentric society that conflates maleness with having a penis and ascribes privileges and essential superior gender differences to those who possess that anatomy. With women and femininity being devalued, many people simply cannot understand why a person would, on purpose, give up such privilege, both symbolically and physically.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

White Person Problems

Actual White Guy quote from the Facebook:
"Went to [cheap buffet] in [small Midwestern town] today for lunch. Servers ignored us pretty much the whole time. No drink refills. But they did bend over backwards for the black and Mexican patrons. Looks like [cheap buffet] is racist toward white people."
Now, many white people do have lots of legitimate problems. But, if this problem is what a person is agonizing over, one might want to consider ones unexamined privileges.

I further contend that many white people "don't even see race" when it comes to the ways in which they are privileged as white people. Race becomes visible to many, it seems, only with respect to the ways in which they are "oppressed" as white people.

Like when servers at [cheap buffet] don't re-fill the white people's Cokes first.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Civility Series

I haven't been totally away from Internet.

Over at Family Scholars Blog, I've been reading and engaging with some of the posts on civility. There, prominent opponent of same-sex marriage Maggie Gallagher wrote a couple and somewhat engaged with commenters.

In her first post on the topic, she suggests that ad hominem arguments are a defining characteristic of being uncivil:
"An uncivil argument is not one that offends. It is one that in its turn does not address a person’s argument but attempts to rule the person out of the circle of civility by presupposing their motivations and dismissing them."
When she opened another comment thread for folks to continue the discussion, she then articulated:
"For me, this debate is not about me. I don’t care about me. Whatever happens, I will be fine.

I didn’t enter this debate to get rich, to be famous, to be remembered, to get a pass, or for any other reason than that my reason for being as a writer is: to speak the truth within the limits of my insight.

No third party can determine for me whether I’ve done that.

You have to guess at my motivation. I know."
I actually agree with the general, non-contentious statement that ad hom arguments are uncivil, and I agree with Maggie's sentiment that the debate about marriage equality isn't and shouldn't be about her. However, as someone who is pretty influential in the equality debates, and is perhaps the most well-known opponent of equality, I was curious to know if she ever gives thought to how her words and actions might be affecting others. So, I asked her:
"You are right that others would have to guess at [your motivations in the equality debate], and would possibly be wrong. So, I won’t go there.
And rather, per my post on civility, I would be curious to know when, if ever, you have tried to put yourself in the position of LGBT people and tried to understand our history of pain, achievement, oppression, disappointment, fear, idealism, and aspiration that have contributed to acts of harassment and violence on both sides of the SSM issue?

How well do you think you understand our position and experiences?

I would suggest that, despite your possible good faith motivations, it is possible for you to hurt LGBT people through your advocacy and writing. And, I would further suggest that if you had a better understanding of our experience, you might possibly be able to contribute to the discourse in ways that promote civility rather than hinder it.

I hope you take the opportunity to respond to my questions, Maggie.

NOM perpetuates an ongoing message that advocates for same-sex marriage are mean bullies to people like you, and I’m sincerely trying to have a civil dialogue with you about an issue you devote your life to and that affects my life in a very personal manner."
To which, she replied:
"What would constitute evidence –either before or henceforth–that someone cared about your pain?

Can someone care about your pain–care about you–and yet disagree with you?

I’m not asking about me–as I said I don’t think I’m that important. I get from you that you need someone to care about what you’ve been through.

If someone cares, can they nonetheless disagree?

How do we demonstrate caring across disagreement?

(I think myself perhaps an analogy to the abortion issue might help. But maybe not.)"
This reply suggests to me a disconnect in our communication. I'm picking up that Maggie perhaps thinks I'm advocating a wishy-washy "can't we all just get along" plea to just "care" about each other more.

But, the point I've been trying to get at is how and whether a person with her persuasive potential, power, and platform thinks about how her words might possibly hurt lots of people even if she doesn't intend to hurt them. And, if she's not doing that already, I further suggest that a good way for prominent opponents of marriage equality to think about the impact they are having on those whose rights they oppose is is for them to try to put themselves on the receiving end of their own rhetoric as though she were an LGBT person.

So, I responded:
"You are one of the most active, vocal, and prominent opponents of same-sex marriage, and given that level of importance, I really do want to know, specifically, whether you have tried to put yourself in the position of gay people and tried to understand our history of pain, achievement, oppression, disappointment, fear, idealism, and aspiration that have contributed to acts of harassment and violence on both sides of the SSM issue?

So, in response to this:

“I get from you that you need someone to care about what you’ve been through.”


To clarify, I don’t “need” people to “care” about what I’ve been through. Sure, that would be nice. It’s not about what I need, it’s about each of us going through a process of trying to understand the other side better. If you go through that process of compassion and end up not caring, or end up weighing social goods differently, then fine.

It would then be fair of you to articulate that though and explicitly say, “I understand that where you’re coming from is x, y, and z, and really, I don’t care, or I think a, b, and c are more important than your pain.” In public conversation, from what I’ve read of you, you mostly avoid talking about gay people at all, let alone acknowledge our struggles and history of oppression- so much so that I really do wonder whether or not your actions and rhetoric are guided by any semblance of understanding of what LGBT people have historically endured.

And consequently, I am led to wonder whether you think about how your rhetoric and what I see as vilification of gay people might be “piling on” to these historical injustices.

Because yes, I do think that if someone cares about LGBT people, and understands our historical pain and oppression, they can still disagree with us about same-sex marriage. A key part, to me, of disagreeing civilly is to oppose SSM while keeping the dignity of gay people and your political opponents intact, which includes not vilifying us and not making sweeping, unfair generalizations about us.

I know that you strongly object to all opponents of SSM being called “haters” and “bigots,” but you and NOM have a tendency to vilify all supporters of SSM as mean bullies. And yes, I know that some pro-SSM advocates and groups vilify and generalize all opponents of SSM. I get that. It’s par for the course in the “culture wars.”

But, change has to start somewhere, right? Be the change you want to see in the world, and all that…
I would add that David Blankenhorn, when he was opposed to SSM, demonstrated very well how to be a (what I would consider) civil opponent of SSM.

When I read his book The Future of Marriage, I disagreed with him from a substantive standpoint, but I did not come away thinking that he was a bigot. When I read his book, as a lesbian, I didn’t walk away thinking, “This guy has no clue about my life, he hates me, and he doesn’t understand where the other side is coming from”- which, honestly, is what I sometimes feel when I read some anti-SSM rhetoric.

The fact that David made a concession about the equal dignity and worth of gay people was a large component of civility. It seemed to me like he had an understanding of the fact that, yep, actual bigotry really does exist against gay people still and is a part of our history. And, he was able to articulate that, yes, gay people and same-sex couples are worthy of respect even though he ended up weighing social goods differently and opposing same-sex marriage."
 I haven't received a response.

Although, I do realize Maggie is probably pretty busy. It's election year and some anti-gay ballot initiatives are coming up. And along those lines, I can understand why Maggie's blogpost on civility denounced ad hominems above all other logical fallacies and modes of incivility including slippery slopes, hasty generalizations, argumentum ad nauseum, circular reasoning, and unfair vilification of one's opponents.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Now This

actually is funny.

Well, I think so anyway.

Thankfully, my dogs are usually well-behaved, especially since they've gotten older. The most rotten thing that White Dog has done recently is to eat several of my sprigs of mint from my herb garden. I knew it was him because (a) he actually had decent breath and (b) dirt and mint got all clumped in his poodle-terrier beard.

In other news, I've been incredibly busy again in Real World,* so blogging, especially political blogging that might inspire heated conversation around here that I would have to monitor and moderate, might be light for the next couples of weeks.

Just wanted to give people a heads up that things are fine, I'm just busy.

*I still think it's weird to refer to non-Internet as Real World, as though Internet World is "fake." Not sure what that's about.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

OMG SO Funny!

(This isn't actually funny)

I'm with Liss, I can't stand pranks.

Mostly because I think they're cruel and, oftentimes, straight-up bullying, except "because it's just a joke, geeeeeez" it isn't usually socially acceptable for the target of the prank to be angry about it. The "prankster" wants to manipulate a person into feeling fear or some level of trauma, but then the prankster considers it a first-class human rights violation if the person being pranked instead responds with one's own authentic emotions of, say, anger or a state of not-being-amused.

So, you can imagine what I think of this cutesey-fartsy marriage proposal:
"It was a marriage proposal prank that could have gone down in flames.

Last February, pilot Ryan Thompson, during a sightseeing flight over the city in a small plane, told his girlfriend the aircraft controls were not responding, before he revealed it was all part of a ruse to ask for her hand in marriage."

Now, in addition to being a lesbian who isn't in a Real Marriage with my partner, I realize that I'm also a No Fun Feminist In All Of NoFunLand, but I think that's a pretty fucked-up "prank" to "play" on someone a person purportedly loves.

Inspiring in someone a flash of imminent death and then asking them a life-changing question while they might be a bit emotionally-vulnerable strikes me as, I don't know.... insecure? Mean? Not funny?

All of the above?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Genitalia, "Neutering," and Losing Male Privilege

You may have heard Rush Limbaugh's latest irrational rant about The Feminazis. On his show, he noted a study on male genitalia:
"'The study's leaders claim to have bona fide research that says the average size of a penis is roughly 10 percent smaller than it was 50 years ago. And the researchers say air pollution is why,' Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh said that he did not believe that air pollution and global warming could have such an impact. 'I don't buy this. I think it's feminism. I think if it's tied to the last 50 years, the average size of a member is 10 percent smaller ... it has to be the feminazis,' Limbaugh said."
This statement is really such a great symbolic confession for many men's fear of feminism and women's progress.

Relatedly, it is also no mistake, I believe, that the bloggers at that one bizarre, amateur, male-dominated "marriage defense" blog that rhymes with shmopine shmeditorials have coined their own obscure word "neutered marriage" to refer to same-sex marriage.

It's as though some men think that their penis is the one thing that separates them from women and, as such, represents the source of male distinction, dominance, and privilege for them. So, if women's progress in society is represented both by feminism and same-sex marriage's radical suggestion that men and women aren't "complementary" beings having an oxymoronic "equal hierarchical relationship" to one another and therefore marriage doesn't have to include both a leader (man) and a follower-admirer (woman), then feminism and same-sex marriage is of course, to some men, going to correlate with penis shrinkage or *gasp* all-out neutering. 

Language matters. Word choice can be very telling.

Some men are just very scared of losing their special, historical male-only affirmative action programs in society that is granted to them on the sole basis of their sex.