Monday, December 24, 2012

The Pathetic Anti-Feminist Woman

 [Content note: Um, wow, there's a lot going on in this piece but let's go with misogyny, violence, victim-blaming, misandry, and male supremacy]

The only type of woman more sad to me than a woman who bashes her entire gender for purposes of patriarchal head pats is a woman who bashes her entire gender in such an inadequate, illogical, and offensive way that even anti-feminist men are like, "Whoa! Even we think that's bad."

I'm not going to link to it because, wow, is the National Review Online publishing hack "theories" on the Newton killings just to get page views? (And if so, can I officially check out of the human race immediately?), but have you all read Charlotte Allen's "thinking" on the tragedy?

To summarize (and I wish I were creating a strawman here, but I'm really not), she points out that Sandy Hook was populated at the time by mostly women and children and asks us to just think about how things might have turned out differently if, say, there were a male janitor around to a "heave his bucket" at the killer or, you know, some "male teachers who had played high school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys" to "converge" on the killer and his semi-automatic weapons.

Her thesis, if it can be called that, was to bemoan a culture that has purportedly feminized schools and society.

Aside from the fact that, I don't know, maybe she's not familiar with the Ft. Hood murder, notice how her piece is, of course, offensive to both men and women, boys and girls. A Real Man (or even a "husky" pre-teen boy) stands ever-vigilant. Disposable as he is, he should be prepared to heave his bucket at men wielding semi-automatic weapons, in order to save the weak, passive women and girls. And, when women heroically throw themselves in front of bullets to save children, they're derided as "passive" and an example of everything that's wrong with our ultra-feminized, feminist society.



It's always interesting isn't it?  We live in an incredibly violent culture in which men commit the vast majority of violent crimes and we're still somehow living in a matriachal, feminized, feminist paradise?  And, well, I have my picture of what a feminist utopia is, and it sure as shit ain't this.

Doubling down and digging herself even deeper, Allen later "responded" to her critics in a separate piece and acted very hurt that even, like, conservative dudes such as Jonah Goldberg (accurately) accused her of victim-blaming.

She went on to add that there's a kernel of truth in her original piece. After all, Allen notes, Hanna Rosin once wrote a piece at Salon encouraging boys to play with Easy Bake ovens and OMG isn't that ridiculous for people to encourage boys to do girly sissy things?!  But wait! In the next breath, Allen asks:
Why aren’t there more men [teaching in schools]? Perhaps not enough want the job? But why? Because they are tacitly discouraged from careers in elementary education?
Yes, and just who the everloving fuck does Charlotte Allen think is discouraging men from doing girly sissy things like teaching?

Anti-feminists like her have a serious logical disconnect.

[ETA: An anti-feminist commenter below has taken it upon himself to comment extensively on this post. Unfortunately, when challenged with counter-arguments and expectations that he formulate clear, specific, and civil arguments, it seems he has chosen to delete his comments and place an "x" in each of his posts. Just letting readers know that I would have preferred to let the conversation stand as it was.]

Friday, December 21, 2012

Feminists, We Ruin Everything

Including Christmas movies that I generally enjoy. Like Love, Actually, which is apparently the Official Worst Christmas Movie Ever.

(Remember? We came to a consensus on this issue at the last meeting and added it to our Sooper Seekret Feminist Manifesto. Shhhhh, don't tell the MRAs!)

Now, I'm fully aware that I often have to shut down and compartmentalize my feminist brain if I'm to halfway enjoy most popular films, seeped as they are in male-centric, non-Bechdel-test-passing narratives.

But, I have long had a sentimental appreciation for Love, Actually, mostly because I'm a sucker for happy romantic endings. But, I also think this article criticizing the movie is pretty damn funny and accurate:
"With the exception of Bill Nighy’s witty plotline about an aging pop star’s attempt to secure the coveted Christmas No. 1 hit, every one of the 85 other stories in the movie involves some horrible lesson out of the battle of the sexes playbook. If you were an alien watching 'Love, Actually,' you would come to the conclusion that what human British men really, really want are hot chicks who fetch them tea, put up with their dalliances, and don’t speak English."
I've long been annoyed at the movie's lack of same-sex romantic storylines among the 85 other romantic storylines, but yeah wow, most of the storylines are like a straight guy's fantasy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Blogging Update

As I've been blogging for more than 5 years, I've developed a strong interest in civility, the creation of online communities, and engaging in dialogue with those who have very different experiences, opinions, privileges, and backgrounds than I do.

The other day, I updated the folks at Family Scholars Blog that I will be taking a break from blogging there until a more specific civility policy is applied.  (I will, of course, still be blogging here in Fannie's Room).

As I wrote there, "I have concerns about that policy [which simply states, "...don't be mean,"] both in its content and its application.  I know that readers have also emailed me with concerns and confusion over what is and isn’t acceptable commentary in [there], who does and doesn’t get to be 'mean' [there], and whose commentary [there] is and isn’t open to critique."

I know from commentary to my piece, and to other pieces there, that some people are exasperated at the notion of a more specific civility policy that might give people more guidance than "don't be mean."  They seem to think it will interfere with people's free speech or that it might "stifle" dialogue.

Yet, I counter that argument by noting that, certainly on Internet, it is rarely a problem that people are being just too goshdarn nice and too aware of other people's experiences, feelings, and sensitivities when they talk about controversial topics. And, you know, there's a really big Internet out there and if people want to blast away without "censoring" themselves, countless forums exist to do so.

As a culture, we say we revere peacemakers and advocates of non-violence like Martin Luther King, Jr., and we wring our hands and cry "why?" when bullied kids commit suicide, and yet it's not lost on me that it's also simultaneously incredibly difficult to create intentional online spaces where civility, and having sincere conversations about what that even means, is a shared value.

Simply put, the norm in US culture, emanating from the top down, and coming from politicians, radio personalities, pundits, bloggers, and numerous commentators with powerful voices is.... to be mean.  It takes work, and it takes being mindful of this constant reinforcement to overcome this pervasive conditioning.

I still believe in what I think some of the folks at Family Scholars Blog are trying to do, which is create a space where people of varying beliefs, backgrounds, and experiences can have civil dialogue about contentious issues.

But, I have also been thinking a bit about the different power dynamics at play when people of relative privilege express exasperation at civility policies and when only some people have the power in different spaces to say what does and doesn't count as "mean" and "civil."

The resulting conversations can sometimes condone problematic behaviors and suggest that, in any conversation, it's just as mean to call out, say, bigotry as it is to actually be bigoted.

Over at Geek Feminism Blog, Tim Chevalier has written
"...adopting a laissez-faire 'free speech' policy in an organization is to take a political position: it means taking the position that existing power dynamics from the larger society will and must recreate themselves in your organization. To do nothing is to let bullies be bullies, because bullies always bully when they get the chance to and when there are no checks and balances against bullying.

So in reality, the choice isn’t between taking a laissez-faire, neutral position; and adopting a code of conduct that excludes some form of speech. The central conflict is:

Shall we implicitly exclude people in socially stigmatized minority groups, or shall we explicitly exclude people who cannot or will not behave with respect?"
I also find it interesting that advocates of civility are quite often suggested to be oversensitive, hysterical, or overreacting. They suggest that they themselves aren't easily offended as though they are "above" having feelings. This claim, we learn, can often quickly be proven false if we suggest that these same folks who purport to be "above" having feelings might be sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, or showing any other sort of problematic behavior.

If we, even in relatively gentle ways, suggest that these folks might be problematic, the response is often a swift, "How dare you!?" and "How abusive of you to call me sexist!" before entire conversations get shut down for "lack of civility" on the part of people calling out problematic behavior.

To add to what Tim writes, unspoken rules of civility often mean that we are actually placing a premium on the feelings of relatively privileged folks to never have to feel uncomfortable, or as though they might be harboring problematic beliefs, in conversations while reinforcing dominant cultural narratives that make marginalized people uncomfortable but aren't readily recognized as problematic (like, having "friendly debates" over whether or not homosexuality or being transgender is pathological or immoral).

Many marginalized people will feel unsafe and uncomfortable participating in spaces where it is also not acceptable or "civil" to call out other people's problematic statements and patterns of engagement. Purported free speech proponents rarely express concern about the stifling of speech of these lost voices, however.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

But Most Importantly Today

Here are 2012's worst words.

I guess I don't hang out in circles or social networks that use some of these words, but I agree with many of these.

Like the word "actually," also known as "the word that you use when you're actually saying, 'You are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.'"

And "hehehe." No one is ever being nice when they laugh like that on Internet.

Anyone have any worst words of their own?

My addition would be "phenomenal," only because I see people so often using it to describe relatively mundane accomplishments, food, or events as though they're Exceedingly Epic*. I'm sure some readers of this blog would add gratuitous capitalization as an annoying stylistic habit.

Hehehe. Too bad.

(*Epic is also on the list)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What About the Menz?

[Content note: Gun violence]

On the recent mass murder in Connecticut, committed by yet another man, Melissa McEwan of Shakesville observes:
"There is one other subject that is off the discussion menu—and that is the fact that mass killings are committed by men almost exclusively. Of the 62 mass murders carried out with firearms across the US since 1982, 61 of them were committed by men. Forty-four of the killers were white men.

Every one of the men who picked up a gun—or multiple guns—and started shooting people was socialized in a patriarchal culture that encourages an aggressive masculinity one of the key expressions of which is meant to be violence.

That is not incidental. And you can bet your ass that if there was an epidemic of mass slaughters committed by women, their gender would be mentioned. How we raise girls would be examined. It would be talked about. Womanhood would be on the discussion menu."
I wonder if those who have created websites, blogs, and forums to discuss "men's rights" and "men's issues" are pondering these numbers and the media's general unwillingness to mention the elephant in the room here.

That so many so-called men's rights activists instead spend the bulk of their time bashing feminism and women, rather than thoughtfully exploring our culture's reinforcement of aggressive masculinity, is a further symptom of how this culture entitles men to be aggressive and consistently fails to demand any serious changes in behavior.

Here we have yet another unfortunate chance for those with influential voices, both within the "manosphere" and in the mainstream, to ask, Seriously, What About the Men? and the primary conversation topics people seem to want to instead talk about are putting "god" back in schools, giving teachers guns, and complaining about the irrelevant Westboro Baptist Church.

If it is "just" feminists noting the demographics of these murders, it is easy to dismiss the analyses as "misandry." After all, that's the alleged defining feature of feminism, isn't it?  Even though, if it were any other demographic group committing such heinous crimes, those demographics would not only be widely discussed but also put forth as a defining feature of the demographic group.

And, to be clear, I am not saying or implying that killing people is a defining feature of white men. Most white men don't kill people. I'm just making another observation wherein white men largely are demographically "invisible" as the norm and, as such, get to be seen as individuals.

Society, this message tells us, doesn't have an Angry White Male problem, we have lone, "insane" individuals.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Critical Opinions in the Abortion Debate

So, a friend of a friend of a friend snapped a photo on Facebook of a man dressed in a Santa costume, sitting on a stoop near a busy intersection, who was looking sad while holding up a sign that read, "Santa is out of a job because of abortion."

Yes, I know!

"Santa is out of a job because of abortion."


It seems his intent was to use the sentimentality of Christmas to make people Think Twice about their beliefs on abortion, but..... what I really ended up wondering was, wow, what other critical abortion manpinions held by imaginary men is the public debate on abortion lacking?

Has anyone even polled Frosty the Snowman, Punxsutawney Phil, or Fred Flinstone to hear what they have to say about how granting women bodily autonomy might affect the imaginary lives of these imaginary men, hmmmmmm?

And then it hit me.

No, we probably haven't taken these critical perspective into account. We probably aren't getting the "bigger picture" here of the entire situation.

Feminists are SO unfair.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Friday Cathartic Read

Sure, this message from Kate Harding to MRAs isn't the most.... "bridge-building."

However, my observation from my years as an Internet Feminist is that some people simply cannot handle a feminist gal speaking up about Problematic Gender Stuff regardless of whether she's saying a loud "fuck you" or uttering a tepid, "Hey, um... I don't think anyone here is necessarily sexist or anything heh heh heh, or like, being intentionally problematic... but... can we maybe have a conversation about that thing you just said?"

The latter tone is so often interpreted as the former, and we often learn through experience just how many people prioritize remaining entrenched in their unexamined privileges and biases over engaging them with an open mind.

Which, perhaps, speaks to a growing concern of mine that maybe it's better not to build bridges (let alone cross them) when bullies, whose capacity to be offensive is exceeded only by their capacity to become offended at being called out for it, are on the other side.

A snippet:
"By and large, American feminists are really into equality, involved fathers, justice for all, dismantling bullshit gender roles, and helping folks leave dangerous relationships. We would be the natural allies of MRAs, if MRAs were sincerely committed to the causes with which they claim to be chiefly concerned. But no, today's MRAs—unlike the 1970s movement that earnestly sought to free men, alongside women, from the constraints of gender stereotypes, or the 1980s branch that involved a lot of drum circles and crap poetry—are chiefly concerned with one thing, and one thing only: Putting feminists in their place."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ministerial Malpractice?

 Previously, I (and others) have suggested that the existence of ex-gay "conversion therapy," via its promotion of the idea that being lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) is "defective," is abusive to LGB people.

 Over at Religion Dispatches, Rev. Cody J. Sanders goes follows a similar way of thinking and argues for the coining of the concept of "Ministerial Malpractice":
"Violence against queer people runs much deeper than physical bullying, verbal harassment, or even hate-crime murder. It is a violence that takes place at the level of the psyche, the soul—at the very level at which our sense of “self” is constructed within our relation to society.

It is a type of violence that cannot be assessed by examining bruises. Violence against queer people in any form is an ideologically aggravated, theologically intensified violence—legitimated by a discourse about queer people that is already embedded in the lives of both attacker and victim.


 Of the three classic 'professions' (law, medicine, and divinity), we are well aware of malpractice in the medical and legal professions. But we don’t talk much about ministerial malpractice, aside from cases of criminal child sexual abuse that have come to light in myriad denominations.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the negligent attitudes of clergy and congregations concerning the violence being enacted upon queer lives—not just the violence of bullying, but the persistent injury to the bodies, psyches, and souls of queer people.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the youth minister who invites representatives of 'ex-gay' ministries to speak to teenagers because these “practices of love” are theologically responsible, despite evidence of their destructive power.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the pastor who knows the realities of violence enacted upon queer lives and is deeply concerned, but who, nevertheless, avoids any mention of sexuality in the pulpit so as not to upset parishioners.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the theological scholar who prevaricates in public when asked about concerns of justice for queer lives—not even out of a sense of personal conviction on the matter, but in order to protect a public career: speaking invitations, book deals.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the congregation that skirts around open discussions of queer affirmation, inclusion, and justice because they don’t want to become a 'gay church' or (more liberally) they don’t want to be 'defined by that one issue.'”
 It's an idea certainly worthy of conversation and debate, especially given that many religious folks who hold anti-gay beliefs are reluctant to truly own those beliefs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Humor and Civility

In a previous post on our recurring topic of civility at Family Scholars Blog, I wrote:
"One of the biggest barriers to civil dialogue is, I believe, the failure to understand those with whom we disagree." 
I further cited theologian Karen Armstrong, who said:

“Try to put yourself in the position of the ‘other side’ ~ as the compassionate ethos demands ~ and ask yourself  ‘How much do I really know about their history of pain, achievement, oppression, disappointment, fear, idealism, and aspiration ~ all of which, on both sides, have contributed to this violence?’” 
As a preliminary matter, I would define a "mixed-company conversation" as, say, one between feminist women versus men who are not informed about feminism or gender studies. Or, for instance, heterosexual opponents of equality versus non-heterosexual people. I don't want to get too hung up on definitions here, but my basic gist is that a "mixed-company" conversation is one in which the parties involved often have different lived experiences, due to the fact that many people in society treat them differently based on their identities as, and prevailing stereotypes about, men, women, heterosexuals, and/or non-heterosexuals.

Within conversations where the goal is for civil dialogue to occur, I think we especially need to be mindful of attempts to use humor and facetiousness. Although it can be tempting to use humor to diffuse tensions, if it is not done with an awareness of the experiences of "the other side" it can come off as hostile. It can, and often does, actually escalate tensions with the very people one purports to want to engage in a civil manner.

I have taken issue here before with the "facetious," half-joking use of aggressive, over-the-top rhetoric to describe other people's political actions. And, most recently, I've also taken issue with a little snippet in one of Matthew's recent posts on "benevolent sexism." In order to facilitate the discussion, he linked to the controversial Charles Murray, saying:
"Charles Murray has some thoughts on a new study in Psychology of Women Quarterly that I don’t imagine are going to be popular in some circles.

I’m just going to leave this here and run in the other direction…"
While all of the comments pertaining to Matthew's joke have been deleted by the admin here (not at my request*), I had initially asked Matthew why he wrote that "run in the other direction" bit. My point wasn't to make a big deal about it. I thought he was just trying to make a joke and likely didn't even know that that's a problematic pattern of behavior men often engage in when they try to talk about gender issues with women and feminists.

In my decades of experience as a feminist, I've found that it's pretty common for men in "mixed-company" with female feminists to precede their statements on gender with something along the lines of, "You're going to clobber me for saying this, but," or "I'm going to get killed here, but," or, the Internet version: which is for men to make some, what they deem "politically incorrect," argument and then follow it with a "*ducks*" as though they're dodging a punch that a woman is throwing at them in response.

Given that Matthew noted that the study he was citing wasn't "going to be popular in some circles" and that he's a man venturing into talking about sexism against women, I interpreted his "I'm just going to leave this here and run in the other direction" as a similar precursor to his article.

Now, I don't expect everyone to agree with me on the point that his "joke" wasn't funny. I don't expect everyone to agree with me that the precursor was, no matter how it was intended, rude. And, I don't even expect all women or all feminists to agree with me here.

On the civility front, though, I would find it reasonable for conversation participants to at least try to understand my argument and where I'm coming from, rather than reflexively dismissing or trivializing it. I would also expect people to acknowledge that humor is a subjective experience, and that what's funny to some people isn't funny to all people, and that people might have legitimate reasons for not thinking that something is funny.

When one, for instance, understands that a common stereotype of feminists is that we're hysterical, oversensitive man-haters who can't take a joke, one might better understand why feminists who show up to engage in civil dialogue might not chuckle at a man's "joke" that uh-oh, he better run away after he posts a link, a statement that "half-jokingly" implies that he might be physically or verbally assaulted at some point within the conversation. Simply put, the joke does not assume good faith on the part of other participants that they'll be able to react non-aggressively.
Indeed, in one of the comments that the admin deleted, a different man suggested that Matthew felt "hurt" by my argument and, simultaneously, that other people "felt" they had to "walk on eggshells around" me because I point stuff like this out. But, well, it does become apparent though, especially with respect to humor, part of civility is accepting that maybe all participants in mixed-company conversation need to do a little eggshell-walking-on

I  know some folks take a certain pride in being "un-PC," but in my experience such people are oftentimes quite prickly themselves when their own sensitivities are on the line in some way. For instance, in this forum, I recognize that cursing isn't "PC" and is, in fact, banned, so I respect that rule because to not respect it would impede the goal of having civil conversation here. And, the fact that Matthew included his joke at all in his piece certainly made me wonder, wow, but can I actually disagree with him without him feeling super threatened? How delicately do I have to put any sort of disagreement for him to not feel abused at the hands of Angry Feminists?

I would further suggest that responses to my argument, an argument in which I did not once utter the word "sexist" or say that I thought Matthew was being intentionally rude, that I would see as evidence of authentic openness to engage would be something along the lines of, "Fannie, I'm new to this and am not sure I understand what your complaint is, can you explain it further?"

Less thoughtful responses to jokes that don't go over super well would include exasperated statements along the lines of, "Oh good grief! I was being facetious," other people jumping in to assume the role of "neutral third party" who think that just because they don't see anything offensive then nothing offensive exists, and comments like, "Keep the jokes comin'! Most people like jokes!"

Because, well, most people do like jokes. I certainly do. In fact, I used to write for a popular lesbian humor website, writing all sorts of self-deprecating jokes about queer women for queer women and we'd all laugh at ourselves.

However, by the end of this particular conversation, a conversation in mixed-company about a serious topic, we weren't all laughing together. Which I think speaks to the fact that if a joke in such a context doesn't go over super well, maybe the joke-teller could think about why that is and ask some clarifying questions.

Sure, I get that it's everyone's right to say whatever they want to say and to laugh at whatever they want to laugh at. And if that's folks' prerogative to do that in mixed-company conversations, okay. But then I would argue that we should also not pretend that such approaches constitute civility or attempts at understanding.

I'll end by noting that if men can't handle the little things in a civil manner, like a woman suggesting that it's problematic for a man to "joke" that he better run away from the conversation participants after he posts a controversial article, do they really expect women to trust that they're capable of participating in the bigger conversations- about rape, abortion, and autonomy- in a civil manner?

See also: Feminism 101: Helpful Hints For Dudes, Part 7
Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog

(*I'm not challenging the comment deletions, I'm just letting people know that the referenced conversation was deleted and that I wasn't the person who deleted it.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Well, That Sounds Like a Great Reason!

A friend sent me this ad she saw in a newspaper:


I can understand why people who are larger and not that flexible might be uncomfortable taking yoga in a class full of people who are smaller and more flexible.

But, to gender the situation in this way plays into the uninspired tropes about authentic masculinity being "large" and authentic femininity being "small."

What if someone's a woman who's interested in yoga but feels self-conscious about being large and inflexible, can she take Man Yoga?

Or, is the male ego so uniquely frail that it's incapable of withstanding the dishonor of doing a physical activity in the same space as women who might appear physically better at it than they are.

I'm not sure if this ad is more insulting to women or to men.

On a final note, my knowledge of yoga is limited, but I do think the philosophical underpinnings of many forms of yoga would find this obvious catering to the ego to be problematic. Americanized versions of practices that have Asian roots continue to amuse me. As a practitioner of a traditional Asian practice, I don't think mind-body-spirit practices from Asia should never be altered. I think they can be thoughtfully and mindfully modified, but it's sad to me when they become infused with some of the worst, ego-driven aspects of American society.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a "Buddhist" Temple For Dudes somewhere where they crush beer cans on their heads upon entering, and then hang them on the door to keep out the taint of Woman from entering.

Monday, December 10, 2012

*cricket cricket cricket*

So, I recently saw a man on Internet claim:
"Well, that [article on "benevolent sexism"] was all pretty interesting. And strengthens me in the view that much of what goes under the name of cultural liberalism and feminism, is really indescribably silly."
I was pretty excited to learn all about this guy's gender credentials, given his no doubt completely objective ability to dismiss a whole entire subject with one mere bark of a blog comment! 

I was like, wow, I read lots of feminist blogs and authors, but it's not often I randomly and gratuitously come across an expert in feminism who is so very renowned, so genuinely informed and familiar with the entirety (oh, I'm sorry "much") of the feminist canon that he feels confident dismissing it in such a fair, impartial and cocksure manner!

Such an expert would undoubtedly make a great potential guest blogger here in Fannie's Room, don't you think, where he could possibly share expert, commonsensical nuggets of wisdom like:
"Protective paternalism is the benevolent aspect of paternalistic ideology, which states that because of their greater authority, power, and physical strength, men should serve as protectors and providers for women. This protectiveness is particularly strong toward women on whom men are dyadically dependent or over whom they feel a sense of 'ownership' (e.g. , wives, mothers, daughters). 
Well, yes, that seems like just common sense to me. "
And, I don't know, if we're lucky maybe he'd even be willing to do an advice column for the property- er, I mean, ladies.

Anyway, my point is that I got all excited about this prospect since we're always looking for Dudes Who Know Things here in Fannie's Room! So, I asked him:
"Since you’re dismissing 'academic liberal feminism' and 'feminism' as silly, I’m hoping you can shed some light on your specific experiences, expertise, and familiarity with feminism. 
Specifically, what courses in academic feminism have you personally taken that would grant you first-hand evidence to dismiss the entirety of the field? 
What specific books written by actual feminists have you read? Can you tell us anything specific you take issue with the writings of bell hooks? Catherine MacKinnon? Angela Davis? Simone de Beauvoir? Virginia Woolf? Susan Faludi? Naomi Wolf? Kate Millet? Alice Walker? Octavia Butler? 
What feminist blogs, magazines, or other periodicals have you read or do you regularly read that would inform your opinion on the 'silliness' of feminism? Not a fan of Feministing? Shakesville? Skepchick? The Mary Sue? 
I’m not talking about your familiarity with cherry-picked quotes that critics of feminism often cite, and I’m not asking if you’re familiar with the writings of critics of feminism like, say, Rush Limbaugh and his caricatures of all feminists. 
I’m asking what your experience is in actually engaging actual, specific feminist ideas is.Since you have sweepingly dismissed the entire field, is it correct to assume you have direct, first-hand knowledge of pretty much the entire field and body of work?"
Too bad for all of us, he hasn't responded.  

Maybe all that Hugo Schwyer hubbub has soured him on feminism (understandable, am I right?!). Or, maybe he had a bad experience while engaging in an intra-feminist debate about pornography, sex work, and choice. Yeah, I'll bet that's it.

Mmm-hmmm, sure.

Related: So, You Want To Teach the Lady Feminists?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Deep Thought of the Day

1. Consider a religious congregation that worship a male deity, where only men can be priests because they're more like this god than women are, and in which the leadership opposes women's bodily autonomy.

2. Consider a religious congregation that worships a female deity, where only women can be priests because they're more like this god than men are, and in which the leadership opposes men's bodily autonomy.

3. Consider another religious congregation that worships gender neutral deity, where people of any gender can be priests, and that generally supports the bodily autonomy of people of all genders.

When some folks talk about the "War on Men," what they never seem to be talking about is situation number 2. To be general, they seem more to be referring to situation number 3. When such people reference a "War on Men" they're actually referencing a war on unearned male privilege and entitlement.

[ETA: An anti-feminist commenter below has taken it upon himself to comment extensively on this post. Unfortunately, when challenged with counter-arguments and expectations that he formulate clear, specific, and civil arguments, it seems he has chosen to delete his comments and place an "x" in each of his posts. Just letting readers know that I would have preferred to let the conversation stand as it was.]

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thoughts On Being An Ally

[content note: cissexism]

As I navigate various online spaces in which I have both more and less relative privilege than other participants in forums, I've been thinking lately about what it means to be a good ally.

So far, I like Heina at Skepchick's thinking:
"Don’t get in front of me and talk for me. Don’t stand off to the side and do nothing. Back me up."
Recently, following a post I wrote on gay "conversion therapy," I was in a conversation in which I, a cis woman, was discussing "conversion therapy" amongst several non-queer men, several of whom are also generally against equal rights for LGBT people and/or believe homosexuality to be a "sin." The conversation took a turn when one of these men began, in a pretty uninformed manner, trying to relate gay "conversion therapy" to gender reassigment/sex affirmation surgery for trans* people and demanding that people explain how it's morally consistent to oppose one while supporting the other.

While the very question itself evidences a certain level of ignorance, his additional commentary and general descriptions of a trans* experience, to me, suggested that he likely doesn't have a great deal of knowledge about either topic and wasn't too interested in learning. Rather, it looked as though he was more trying to make a point that it's inconsistent and possibly hypocritical for people to oppose gay "conversion therapy" while supporting people's right to choose gender reassignment/sex affirmation surgery.

It did not feel appropriate for me, as a cis person with limited knowledge and experience myself, to turn the conversation into a Trans* 101 forum as that, to my knowledge, would have been a conversation about trans* people's autonomy and experiences that was taking place without actual trans* people's voices. So, I tried to steer the conversation back to the original topic of my post, which was the abusive nature of gay "conversion therapy" itself.

My thinking was that, as someone trying to be an ally to trans* people, I wanted to say something to let this guy know that maybe he wasn't the most informed about trans* issues, but that I also didn't want to try to speak for trans* people or to suggest that I was okay with trans* people's experiences being reduced to an uninformed man's abstract, intellectual exercise or game of "gotcha." (Well, all of that, plus my belief that Debating Gender with anti- and nonfeminists can be like gargling with matches and gasoline. I mean really, how many times do I have to entertain the argument that "But but but men and women are just different. Even a toddler knows that" as though it's a genius contribution to the gender discourse?)

And yet, problematically, I also found that the men within the conversation did not grant my voice, as the author of the original piece and as an actual gay woman the piece intimately affects, the same sort of deference and respect as that of fellow feminist and equality-minded (and non-queer male) blogger, Barry, within the conversation.

Although I had explained that I wanted to steer the conversation following my article about "conversion therapy" more toward the topic of gay "conversion therapy," the male participants lauded Barry for, unlike me, being respectful and "model[ing] a correct response" for continuing to respond to the commenter who instead wanted everyone to talk about the Consistency Of Opposing Conversion Therapy While Supporting Trans* People's Rights to Have Surgery They Want To Have. 

One of the commenters called me "abusive" and "dehumanizing" for assuming one of the other commenters was not transgender, even though from my previous experience with the commenter in question I know that he contributes to an anti-LGBT blog whose participants have a history of deliberately mis-gendering trans* people, who opposes equality, and who refers to trans* people as "they" rather than "we."

You know..... this is no Startling Revelation, but it's almost like if a woman's being assertive, people who don't tend to think critically about gender can't help but see her as an abusive bitch who is inflicting severe human rights violations upon them by not demurely agreeing with everything they say and not dropping everything she's doing to read their half dozen linked articles and answer their resulting barrage of uninformed poorly-written questions, while they simultaneously give a man who might be disagreeing with them big time props for merely Not Being An Asshole in a conversation.

(And I mean no offense to Barry, he's great! My point here is to note the disparate ways two generally civil people are viewed by others, a disparate view that I speculate might be based upon our different genders. As Julia Serrano has noted in her book Whipping Girl, she could engage in the exact same behavior and people would categorize her behavior very differently depending upon whether she was presenting as a man or a woman).

I'm not sure if I have a big huge point to make here, other than to spark a discussion on what people think being a good ally consists of, both on Internet and in non-Internet interactions. Because, you know, it can be surreal to experience both relative privilege and marginalization within the same conversation. That can be... I don't know, tricky and frustrating to navigate, and for white cis men who are heterosexual, wow, I think it must be pretty cool to be operating under the assumption in so many conversations that one is somehow Standing Above the Fry and has an especially-objective, neutral take on so many situations.

(I've noted a tendency, for instance, for some privileged folks to bark things like, "You're wrong" as though of course they're just stating an objective fact, as opposed to a, "I think you're wrong," a statement acknowledging that the declaration is emanating from an actual person that might have actual biases and misconceptions.)

To end here, I'll note that I get many private emails from folks saying they admire the way I engage with people who are really hostile, indicating that many people read comment threads and see people being abusive but who nonetheless remain silent. Even as I understand that sometimes people have entirely reasonable reasons for not engaging, I admit that I have at times felt frustrated by the silence of the crowds, those Internet "bystanders" to abusive, sexist, racist, cissexist, transphobic, and other problematic behavior in various forums.
What I think is important for people of relative privilege who are trying to be allies to be mindful of is that, by virtue of not being members of the particular marginalized group we're allied with, our voices are often seen by outsiders as more objective, more civil, and carrying more authority.  I also think it's important to know that our voices are not, actually, more objective, more civil, and possessive of more authority on the topic at hand.

If someone tells us that, unlike that big mean marginalized person, we are being So Thoughtful, maybe think about that and use our privilege to suggest that maybe the person who thinks that needs to rethink their perceptions of the other person. Back people up.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Okay Then

 [Content note: Homobigotry, reference to child abuse]

Anti-gay advocates, professional and amateur alike, can often be found making up their own strange, scary-sounding lingo in order to advance their cause of opposing anything and everything gay.

Writing at the Americans For Truth [sic] About Homosexuality (AFTAH) blog*, Matt Barber writes about how he's not a happy camper about recent efforts to ban the "conversion therapy" that purports to turn gay, bisexual, and lesbian people into heterosexuals:
"Recently, on our nationally syndicated radio program 'Faith & Freedom,' Mat Staver and I discussed the degree to which such bans, or 'Sandusky Laws,' come between counselor and client, hurt children, and trample the rights of religious freedom and sexual self-determination.

Despite intense, politically motivated denials from many on the left, research has established the astonishing frequency to which a 'gay identity' or 'sexual orientation' stems from childhood sexual abuse.  Sandusky Laws abuse these children all over again." [emphasis added]
Oh ree-hee-heeally. Sandusky Laws, eh? We're calling that a thing now, are we?


"Sandusky Law" seems to be a moniker that Team Homobigot has invented in order to associate bans on "conversion therapy" with convicted child molestor Jerry Sandusky. Mat Staver "explains" in the AFTAH article:
"'Under SB 1172, a young boy sexually molested by the likes of a Jerry Sandusky who develops an identity crisis, emotional stress and who begins to experience unwanted same-sex attractions will be further hurt by a law that deprives him and his family of the option of receiving counsel that aligns with their religious and moral beliefs.'"
Barber goes ahead and drops the term "Sandusky Law" into the article several more times, like if it's repeated enough times people might start to think of bans on "conversion therapy" as a Really Bad Thing.

Just to refresh everyone's memory, as I wrote about last week, here is what happens at "conversion therapy":

"The [Southern Poverty Law Center's] complaint, which can be found here (PDF), details the bases of conversion therapy and methods purported to prevent and cure homosexuality including having boys shower with their fathers, having boys beat a pillow 'meant to represent the patient's mother,' having clients removing their clothing during individual and group therapy sessions, cuddling others of the same sex, and being 'subjected to ridicule as 'faggots' and 'homos' in mock locker room and gym class scenarios.'"
Gosh, it's almost like, well, given the descriptions of the abusive and psychologically damaging methods of "conversion therapy," it seems like if anything warrants being associated with Sandusky that something is "conversion therapy."

But alas, Matt Barber, proponent of "conversion therapy" and Acclaimed Definitely Not A Bigot, doesn't seem to get it. He asks:
"What kind of person politicizes the lives of children, treating them as throwaway pawns in a cynical game of political chess?"
 What kind indeed.

*Note: I'm purposefully not linking to AFTAH's odious website, but the article in question can be easily found by copying and pasting the quotes I've provided into an Internet search engine.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On Owning One's Religious Beliefs

"What history can do is show that people have to take responsibility for what they activate out of their [religious] tradition. It's not just a given thing one slavlishly follows. You have to be accountable."
-Karen King, Professor of Divinity at Harvard, quoted in "The Gospel According to King, The Smithsonian

One of my biggest frustrations over the years in interacting with some religious folks has been their complete unwillingess to own their religious beliefs and consequent rhetoric.

If you tell them they're anti-gay or anti-woman, for instance, because they think homosexualiy is immoral or that the ordination of women shouldn't be allowed, a response I sometimes get is, "It's not me who thinks that, it's God. It's just the Truth."

Well, okay.

But if a person's going to make these moral conclusions with such utter conviction, conclusions that at once hurt actual people and are completely unprovable, yeah, I think religious people who activate these particular beliefs from their religion, out of all the beliefs that could be activated and amplified in the world, need to step up and own it.

If the god your promote and revere is anti-gay and anti-woman, maybe you are too.

Monday, December 3, 2012

ACLU Women in Combat Suit: A Guide For Gender Traditionalists

The ACLU is suing the US Department of Defense for its exclusion of women in combat roles in the military.

Let me just summarize the suit and pre-emptively rebut gender traditionalists' responses that they'll undoubtedly render without even reading the complaint (PDF) or knowing any other details of this suit (all quotations are from the cited complaint):
  • "The battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan lack any clear boundaries or front lines..... As a result, servicewomen across the Armed Forces, including the Plaintiffs, have risked their lives and continue to risk their lives serving in combat in our nation's active theatres of war."
  • One of the plaintiffs successfully completed a military training program "widely regarded as one of the most physically and mentally demanding forms of training offered to military personnel." She completed rescue missions and was involved in ground combat, ultimately being awarded a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross with a Valor Device.
  • Another plaintiff went on missions in Afghanistan with male combat arms soldiers, usually serving as the only woman. "[T]hey were dropped off together by helicopter in the mountains, and they wore the same body armor and carried the same weapons."
  • Another plaintiff, a Marine, "lived and worked with" male infantry Marines in the same living and working conditions, managing the same lack of privacy, and going on daily patrols with the men while wearing the same body armor, carrying the same weapons, and encountering ground combat. In order to accommodate the Dept. of Defense's combat exclusion policy, the women "were often taken out of crucial missions" and "were forced to travel to and from the base on dangerous roads," artificially and unnecessarily putting male and female servicemembers at risk for the sake of compliance.
There we go.

I believe these facts rebut "women don't even want to fight in war," "women are incapable of fighting in war," "women on the front lines will harm troop cohesion," and "the physical standards would have to be lowered, resulting in a weaker military."

See, the funny thing is, women aren't a monolithic group, and accordingly don't all have the exact same wants, desires, life goals, attributes, and physical and mental capacities. I mean, it's weird to have to, like, explain that to people as though it's a Startling Revelation, but some people seem truly boggled by the concept of women being individuals.

And, accordingly, even though some financial op-ed reporter can't imagine his little girls ever wanting to serve in the military and seems to think that having daughters makes him a Gender Expert qualified to speak on all women's wants and competencies, the other funny thing is, women already are serving in combat roles.

They just aren't getting credit for it.

And they're not getting credit for their service on the sole basis of their gender, rather than a lack of ability or lack of service. Which, when you think about it beyond bumper sticker gender stereotype slogans, is pretty unfair, as perhaps the most prominent cohesiveness that is apt to be warped by officially recognizing the work that women are already doing is the uninspired black-and-white, toddler-esque view on What Men And Women Are Truly Like that so many people are apparently unable to unstick from their otherwise rational minds.

I hate this saying, but "BOOM."