Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quote of the Day

Tracy Clayton, writing in Uptown Magazine:
"It began when I heard Ryan Seacrest say that 'they' (meaning, I assume, he and his E! red carpet cohorts) had decided to call Quvenzhané Wallis, the 9-year-old dynamo nominated for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, 'Little Q' instead of her actual name.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the problems with this:

1. That isn’t her name.
2. To my knowledge, neither Quvenzhané nor her family OK’d this nickname.
3. That nickname wasn’t given to her out of love or adoration; it was given out of discomfort and a need to control what they deemed as 'other' in society.

Naming and names are important because they are entwined in our identities and the ownership of us and our bodies. We name things that belong to us. We name our children. We name our pets. We name our cars and our plants and our stuffed animals and even our hair. The act of naming and/or re-naming something is absolutely about power and control, and this is something that slave owners knew very well–a standard practice in 'seasoning' and 'breaking' a slave was assigning them Anglo-Saxon names. This established that those men and women were, without a doubt, property of their purchasers, and completely severed them from the identities they knew. Further, the names that were assigned to enslaved black men and women were often diminutive versions of common names–Billy instead of William; Donnie instead of Donald. These were verbal reminders that you were not a whole man or a whole woman, that you were not fully human. And when that wasn’t enough, they were stripped of those names and called 'boy' or 'gal,' because acknowledging a person’s self-approved name is to acknowledge the humanity in someone.

This is still the function of naming, and precisely why the insistence on not learning how to prounounce Quvenzhané’s name is so problematic and outright offensive."
At the end of her piece, Clayton suggests that people beware of those who refuse to call people what they prefer to be called.  For, "they mean you no good."

I agree.

Her entire aticle is great. By referencing the historical context of white people naming slaves as a means of control, power, and containment, she aptly builds the case for why a white guy making up his own nickname for a black girl is not cute or funny and is actually really problematic, regardless of his intent.

Generally, I think that refusing to do the simple act of calling people by their preferred labels and names is an uncivil power play, especially in certain contexts.

It seems similar, but not identical, to cisgender people mis-gendering trans* people, to heterosexuals calling gay people "homosexuals" even when gay people tell them that this term is out-dated and not appreciated, and, in the workplace, to bosses who bestow nicknames like "kiddo" on their employees without their consent.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Civility, Call-Outs, and Monsters

It turns out, other people on Internet like to talk about civility too!

Over at Camels With Hammers, philosophy professor Dan Fincke has stirred up the skeptic/atheist blogosphere by writing a rather lengthy, detailed civility pledge.  The lawyer part of me is intrigued by the depth and precision of it, even as I have reservations about its pragmatic application and even as the cynical (or hopeful? it's good to have these conversations, right?!) part of me foresees endless pedantic meta-debates in its future (or maybe that's the lawyer part of me too).

On an individual commenter level, managing his 13 rules (and many, many more sub-rules) in addition to contributing substantive points to a conversation, seems like a lot for any person's mind to juggle. In the midst of considering and re-considering whether the words one wants to use are the most accurate, precise, and civil words one could be using, is it normal to be like, "Wait..... what did I want to say, again?"

Nonetheless, what I appreciate about his pledge is its suggestion that civility in contentious conversations is both a difficult and a worthwhile aim. And, I agree with much of his pledge, even if I think it would be impossible for even a saint to be 100% compliant with it.

Beyond perhaps the more obvious tenets such as not assuming bad faith, are maybe less obvious ones like holding our allies to the same standards we want to see in our opposition and not implying that people we disagree with are necessarily "stupid" or "crazy."  I say these latter tenets seem less obvious because I don't see them regularly practiced in the blogosphere, or in more traditional avenues of punditry actually. Conceding that people we like or people we are politically aligned with sometimes act in problematic ways seems to be too much of a concession than what many people are regularly willing to make.

While I was more active in the atheist and skeptic blogosphere in the earlier days of my blogging, I retreated from it in large part because of some of its participants' incivility toward both religious people and feminists. I just altogether stopped reading blogs where it seemed like every day the headlines bemoaned how some "idiot," "wingnut," "lunatic," or "crazy" person said this or that thing that the blogger felt was so self-evidently wrong that it required no actual rebuttal. Besides, I find it to be a form of microaggression to read bigoted statements over and over again that are never actually substantively addressed. Do the heterosexual ally atheists continually citing homobigoted statements ever think about that potential impact on their LGBT readers?  But that's a whole other can of worms (that anyone's welcome to address).

Becoming more active in feminist blogging, over the years, allowed me to participate with other skeptic/agnostic-leaning communities for whom feminism was not self-evidently irrational or unworthy of being seriously discussed. And, in feminist blogging, I found that people seemed more willing to call out ableist language suggesting that one's political opponents were intellectually inferior, mentally unstable, or disabled by sheer virtue of their political opposition. Feminist Internet is notorious, or famous, for its Call-Out Culture! Can you believe it? LOL.

To end, I think civility is important to continually strive for in debate primarily because it recognizes the human dignity of those we disagree with. Yet, like Fincke, it has a practical side as well. He writes:
"When you challenge people you make them uncomfortable. They would rather, if they can find some fault in your demeanor, blame you for being a bad person rather than have to consider that it is the truth of your ideas that is the problem. So why give them the actual evidence you’re a disrespectful person that encourages them in their preferred narrative?"
In my experience, many people approach Internet debate as though an enemy is lurking within everyone who disagrees with them. Oftentimes, the assumption is that those who disagree are acting in bad faith, being "disingenuous," and perhaps being hellbent on destroying society [or something else most people care strongly about].  Many people have a lot invested in thinking the worst of their political opponents, and when we are uncivil, we confirm that narrative and give our political opponents an excuse to disengage and to not take our substantive arguments seriously. 

It is easy, lazy, and oftentimes inaccurate to think of our political opponents as monsters with whom we have little in common. And in that shared belief, many people of all political persuasions have more in common with one another than they'd ever care to admit.

[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog]

Monday, February 25, 2013

On the "Bright" Side

I bet the issues pertaining to this so-called "seminary bubble" are at least somewhat mitigated by the fact that many graduates in this field do not have to compete against women for jobs.

(Indeed, although this article pays lips services to the reality that women too can graduate from seminary nowadays, throughout it nonetheless assumes that the default seminary grad is a man).

On a more general note, this article isn't about the so-called Man Crisis that's so popular for some to hitch their careers to.

Nonetheless, in my brain, the reality that religious organizations are once again afforded a special right that doesn't usually extend to other employers, this time the right to discriminate on the basis of sex, reminds me of that lingering subtext I always read into many Man Crisis narratives- that smoldering resentment toward the erosion of male privilege that's resulted in women getting to have jobs to which men are entitled by virtue of them being men.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Internet Archbishops

"Sadly you still think your pronouncements will be accepted without question by a meek credulous herd."

-A 65-year-old former nurse, to the Archbishop of Westminster, in response to, well, a lot of things, one of which was the Archbishop's urging of followers to oppose same-sex marriage.

As I continue to blog and engage in online conversations, I think quite a bit about power- who has it, how it is bestowed, and what it is that legitimates power.

In A Song of Ice and Fire, these questions about power are recurring themes. "Power resides where men [sic] believe it resides," one character offers. In many ways, power is contextual, with the trappings of power acting as an illusion to confer legitimacy on those who hold it.

The nurse, from above, continues:
"To me, you (particularly but not exclusively the hierarchy) appear to be a frightened group of men preoccupied with titles, clothing and other religious externals. You seem, with some wonderful and brave exceptions, to pay only lip service to ecumenism and matters of social justice. I would love to see the so-called ‘Princes of the Church’ (Where did all these triumphant, utterly anti-Gospel titles you award yourselves come from?) get rid of the silk, the gold, the Gucci shoes, the ridiculous tall hats, croziers, fancy soutanes etc etc and substitute bare heads and a simple pilgrim’s staff on all liturgical occasions and that might be taken as a small outward sign of your inner acceptance of fundamental Gospel values."
In a similar vein, I continue to observe, and be somewhat entertained by, people who participate in Internet conversations primarily by making conclusive, yet contentious, statements that they deem so self-evidently true that their conclusions do not require supporting evidence.  In addition to suffering from the common affliction of not being able to distinguish which of their thoughts are fact or opinion, such people seem genuinely perplexed by the fact that people exist who do not accept their pronouncements without question.

They participate as if they are Internet Archbishops, who must Explain Things to the meek, credulous, and ignorant herds. Rarely, do they precede their arguments with, "I think that brics are better brac." No. It's always, "Brics are better than bracs."

An authoritative conclusory opinion trying to masquerade as fact, with little or no supporting evidence to back it up. How often are such people taking their cues from the pampered princes above?

What exactly is the connection between power and the sense some people have of their own illusory superiority, their speaking down to people and then acting all incredulous when people disagree or request evidence?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

OMG the Gender Police Are So Weird

This game. 

Was it really a real thing?

In any event, I'm certain that a deeper analysis than "weird" can be rendered about this game. The blogger who I found this from calls it "heteronormative torture for boys and girls 100 years ago." And that seems to work too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Today in Definitely-Not-Bigotry

[Spoiler alert/content note: Homobigotry]

Welp, good to see the leaders of Illinois' anti-equality movement being reasonable and civil.

As usual.

And of course they're relying on the widely-discredited and critiqued Regnerus study to assert that children shouldn't end up in "homosexual homes."  Of course they are.

What, did anyone seriously think they wouldn't?

While I'm tempted to laugh as I ponder what on earth a "homosexual home" is, it is difficult for me not to see Smith's statement as an incitement to violence against gay parents. If the SPLC's labeling of certain groups as "hate groups" is an incitement to violence, this recitation of a "Bible" verse that many Americans believe in certainly falls into that category as well. 

Unfortunately, I cannot say I have the privilege of falling ass-over-heels onto my fainting couch over this rhetoric. It is rhetoric that is, sadly, all too common and therefore unremarkable. Fear, anger, and outrage would be appropriate responses. But, mostly, I feel numb.

I know how this culture war goes. This rhetoric, the consequent framing of its utterer as somehow a victim of the homosexualists, and resulting whinging about PC Gone Awry is just par for the (dis)course.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Thoughts on the New Conversation

I was reading some of the posts and resulting blog conversations following the Institute for American Values' Valentine's Day Symposium on their New Conversation on marriage, when I noticed that many of the discussions were not new at all.

Today, I give my tongue-in-cheek contribution for your consideration, brought to you by jurist William Blackstone:
"By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing; and is therefore called in our law-French a feme-covert; is said to be covert-baron, or under the protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord; and her condition during her marriage is called her coverture.

Upon this principle, of a union of person in husband and wife, depend almost all the legal rights, duties, and disabilities, that either of them acquire by the marriage. I speak not at present of the rights of property, but of such as are merely personal. For this reason, a man cannot grant any thing to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence; and to covenant with her, would be only to covenant with himself: and therefore it is also generally true, that all compacts made between husband and wife, when single, are voided by the intermarriage.


The husband (by the old law) might give his wife moderate correction. For, as he is to answer for her misbehavior, the law thought it reasonable to entrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement, in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his servants or children; for whom the master or parent is also liable in some cases to answer....

These are the chief legal effects of marriage during the coverture; upon which we may observe, that even the disabilities, which the wife lies under, are for the most part intended for her protection and benefit. So great a favorite is the female sex of the laws of England."
To what extent should a married couple be considered one unit or one citizen?

Should a married couple get just one vote, or does each individual get their own vote?

What is the proper way for a husband to give his wife correction? Should he punish her exactly as he punishes his servants and children, or are more (or less) harsh measures necessary for her rehabilitation?

How might the diminishment of coverture in US law have led to a weakened marriage culture, a destabilization of society, and other social ills?

And finally, since coverture was "intended" to protect women as the "favorite" of English law, will men ever be able to overcome their long history of oppression at the hands of traditional marriage?

Okay, in all seriousness, I've been holding off sharing my thoughts about the IAV's New Conversation on marriage. While I probably disagree with many signatories about the extent to which marriage can, should, or is a (or "the") solution to a host of social problems, I do believe that the national conversation on same-sex marriage is oftentimes toxic, hurtful, and polarizing.

Even as I continue to support marriage equality, I am frustrated at the way mainstream LGBT organizations (which are largely dominated by gay men and, to a lesser extent, lesbians) seem to have a monomanic focus on marriage equality as though that's the golden ticket to our full acceptance in society. To me, this focus parallels a conservative focus on marriage generally as a solution to many social problems, at the exclusion of contemplating issues at a more systematic, nuanced, and complex level.

Once marriage equality or a stronger marriage culture are achieved, I sometimes wonder where these well-funded liberal and conservative marriage movements will leave the more vulnerable and marginalized members of our community for whom marriage is not their most pressing issue, for whom marriage is not their "solution," or who do not fit the model of Acceptable Real Family (in either its heteronormative or gay version).

LGBT people will continue to be marginalized, in ways less visible and obvious to the mainstream, after marriage equality is achieved, but marriage equality is largely perceived as being LGBT people's Big Issue. So, when we "win," will it no longer be convincing for LGBT people to claim that bigotry, harassment, or discrimination still exists-  in the way that racism, to some, apparently no longer exists in the US because we have a black President? So, part of the New Conversation maybe involves some bridge-building, helped along with means of civility and understanding, where maybe the end goal isn't to completely agree on everything, but to at least better understand one another.

Secondly, I am not sure at this point if discussing same-sex marriage is "off the table" in the IAV's New Conversation. Jonathan Rauch suggested that the Institute is breaking new ground by being a pro-family organization "recognizing that gay marriage is here to stay as a permanent feature of the American family landscape." Yet, from what I've seen so far, many posts about it seem to be a re-hashing of rather old conversations that existed prior to the same-sex marriage debate.

Heather MacDonald blames feminism. Maggie Gallagher tells us that "men and women are quite different." Lawrence Mead favors restoring some of the stigma to divorce and unwed parenting.

These are not new arguments or discussions. They are also not accepted by many feminists as being true or convincing.

So, while Ron Haskins tells us "the pro-marriage argument is powerful and potentially persuasive to young adults," a pro-marriage New Conversation comprised of these arguments, to many people (especially feminists and progressives) is going to appear as out of touch as re-considering the pros and cons of bringing coverture back.

Indeed, the New Conversation has barely made ripples in the feminist blogosphere, perhaps owing to, as feminist Jill Filipovic demonstrates, its appearance as a conservative, outdated, and simplistic approach.

After much thought and consideration, however, I have decided to sign on to the New Conversation not because I agree with the folks at the IAV, or its signatories but rather because, in large part, I know I do not and will not agree with many of them. The signatories thus far seem to be somewhat intellectually diverse, but I did not see many progressive feminist voices, voices that I believe must be represented in these types of conversations, in the conversation so far, pushing back against outdated, inaccurate notions of gender, sex, and gender roles.

I also respect what the IAV is trying to do and appreciate its commitment to civility. Several participants in the Valentine's Day Symposium also expressed a commitment to civility. I hope that's one value we can all agree on, despite our disagreements about much else.

[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog]

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Framing Women as "Our Wives, Mothers, and Daughters"

Related to my post earlier this week ("The Inventor and 'His Wife'"), Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has started a petition requesting President Obama to stop rhetorically framing women only by their relationships to other people.

For those whom this framing is not self-evidently problematic, Melissa writes:
"Though, once more, I will also note that the President's favorite rhetorical device does not seem to indicate he understands that [women are autonomous human beings]: 'We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.'

That framing is garbage. It is reductive, it is misogynist, it is alienating, it defines women by their relationships to other people, it suggests that Obama is speaking to The Men of America about their 'wives, mothers, and daughters' and not speaking to those wives, mothers, daughters, and any women who are none of those things and/or do not define themselves that way.

It is infuriating to continually hear my President use that framing.

To that end, I have started a petition at the White House's We the People website, petitioning the Obama administration to stop using the "wives, mothers, & daughters" rhetorical frame that defines women by their relationships to other people."
See also Ana Mardoll, "My Father, My Brother, My Husband, My Son."

In the context of a speech that is presumably addressed to all Americans, it is profoundly alienating for a President to talk about women, rather than to us.

Sign on here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The "Straight" Prom

 [Content note: Homobigotry]

Have you heard about this?

A group of students and parents in Indiana want to create a separate "traditional" prom where gays, or perhaps just same-sex couples (it's not clear from any article I've read), are not allowed to attend. Some choice quotes from the folks leading this crusade:
"'We want to make the public see that we love the homosexuals, but we don't think it's right nor should it be accepted,' said a local student."
"'Homosexual students come to me with their problems, and I don't agree with them, but I care about them. It's the same thing with my special needs kids, I think God puts everyone in our lives for a reason,'" said [Diana] Medley[, a special education teacher in town, who is helping with the straight prom movement.]
"'So the same goes for gays? Do you think they have a purpose in life?' No I honestly don't. Sorry, but I don't. I don't understand it. A gay person isn't going to come up and make some change unless it's to realize that it was a choice and they're choosing God,' said Medley."
You know, on the one hand, this campaign sends an awful message to lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids.  But then again, for the sake of any queer kids in this town, I hope that this means all the bigots and bullies will solely be attending this straight prom, instead of the regular prom.

It's kind of like that Dear Abby advice to the homophobes next door whinging about the gay couple moving in next door and asking how they could make the neighborhood better: "You could move."

So, if these folks, on their own time and with their own money, want to use their energy creating their own prom where only the Normal People are invited, I feel similarly to the way I feel about bigots who warn me that I might not end up in "heaven" with them because I don't suppress my "same-sex attractions."

If heaven is to be comprised of anti-gay folks, I'd rather be in "hell" with all the queers, slatterns, and fornicators anyway.  Because having to spend eternity in a "heaven" with self-righteous, boring, hateful, and judgmental bigots would pretty much be one of my worst hells imaginable.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Don't Generally Speak in Absolutes Here

But holy shit I will never never never go on a cruise.

Not that that's ever been appealing to me anyway given my propensity to seasickness and my dislike of being stuck in large crowds of gluttonous Americans.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quote of the Day

Says John Patrick Shanley, in The New York Times:
"Pope Benedict XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He’d been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful résumé, he had no use for women.

The Roman Catholic Church, which in so many ways has been a great boon to the City of New York, has been choked and bludgeoned into insignificance by a small group of men based in Italy.
Priests cannot marry. Why? I will tell you why. Priests cannot marry because they would have to marry women. Women cannot be priests. Why? Women cannot become priests because of a bunch of old men. These old men justify their beliefs with a brace of ridiculous arguments that Jesus would have overturned in a minute.

...The men who make these decisions are at a remove, very much involved in protecting their power and comfort.
I have little reason to hope that the Church of Rome will suddenly realize that without women, the Catholic Church is doomed, and should be doomed."
I agree, yet, in many ways, this opinion piece is superficial.

Sure, the piece has a resonance with me and will likely be satisfying for those who critique the male supremacy of the Catholic Church to see such an indictment in a major newspaper. However, his conclusion that the Church is doomed "without women" is not going to be self-evident, and therefore convincing, to anyone who thinks otherwise. I've seen a similar conclusion made, in reverse, from those who support the current male supremacist status quo: The ordination of women will doom the Church, just as it has doomed all other churches that have already tried it.

Two, the Church is not "without women."

The Catholic Church's male decision-makers may indeed be very much interested in protecting their own power and comfort, but many women too are complicit in Catholicism's male supremacy and buy into its notions of gender complementarity. Where Shanley's conclusion takes it as a given that women are, historically, passive objects who have had the Catholic Church just happen to them, I would disagree and acknowledge instead that women's participation has helped legitimize and build its power.

I recognize the extent to which complicity is oftentimes a survival strategy for those with less power within a society or system. In part because of this recognition, I likewise argue that it is idealistic, hopeful, and unfortunately unrealistic to think that the Catholic Church will, one day, collapse from the weight of its own bigotry just because Bigotry Is Wrong!

The dooming of a the Catholic Church, which I suppose can also be a metaphor for Patriarchy, will not occur until the reasons for women's complicity in it are fully acknowledged and examined.

And some other stuff will probably have to happen too. But, you know, I don't have all the answers.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Inventor and "His Wife"

From a computer networking book I've been reading:
"Len Bosak and his wife Sandy Lerner were working at Stanford University when they had the idea to build and sell Internet routers to research and academic institutions, the primary adopters of the Internet at the time. Sandy Lerner came up with the name Cisco (an abbreviation for San Francisco), and she also designed the company's bridge logo."
And Len, we are to presume, took care of all the technical mumbo-jumbo?

But seriously, that paragraph stuck in my craw. Notice how it centers Len, with Sandy being referenced only by her relationship to him, as "his wife." A less male-centric way to phrase it would have been, "Len Bosak and Sandy Lerner were working at Stanford University when they had the idea to..." Or, if they felt the pressing need to mention their personal relationship, they could have said, "Married couple Len and Sandy were working..."

In actuality, these events took place in the early 1980s and Sandy had multiple Master's degrees, including one in Computer Science from Stanford University. She was working as the Director of Computer Facilities at Stanford when she and Len purportedly developed the concept of the router.

Although, other sources say that the development was actually more of a group effort.

But whatever.

America loves its Great Man and his Little Assistant stories, doesn't it?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Is It Just Me

Or does every couple years a woman pass away who was supposedly the inspiration for Geena Davis' character in A League of Their Own?

Ah well. Perhaps Dottie Hinson was a conglomeration of several different characters.

It's still sad. A tip of the baseball cap and my sincere condolences to Ms. Paire-Davis' family and friends.

Talk about whatever else today.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cis Privilege and My Myth of "No Gender Identity"

"gender is like underwear: if it fits ya don’t notice. If it doesn’t you can’t avoid noticing"
–LaughrioTgirl, via Twitter (via Grace Annam's excellent Trans 101 post)
As I read Julia Serano's Whipping Girl several months back, so much of what she says has been percolating in my mind. For one, I'm not sure I will ever be able to understand the full extent of the privileges inherent in being cis and what it means to have a gender identity that is widely considered to be more authentic than the gender identity of a trans* person.

I think, for much of my life, I haven't felt a strong sense of being either male or female. I've always felt somewhat androgynous, feeling that the stereotypes about what constitute both authentic femininity and authentic masculinity have not resonated with me. As a woman, I don't feel that I'm the "opposite" of men. I think I have far more in common with many men (and women), than I have differences.

In fact, reading some descriptions of women from gender traditionalists, gender complementarists, MRAs, and "game""/pick-up-artistry," erm, "theorists," I've often felt very much like some sort of non-gendered being. The women many of these folks describe are so unlike the vast majority of women I've ever met. (And I've met a lot).

Because of these feelings of androgyny, I think early on in my thinking about trans* issues, I therefore didn't fully understand the desire to transition or what it means to be transgender. To reference the title and quote at the top of this post, I've never felt strongly that I've had a gender identity at all. When I was born, people started calling me a girl and so, well, that was that. I am what I am.

But, upon reflection, it seems like a crucially-important aspect of cis privilege for me to unpack is the recognition that that's what being cis... kind of is. If the sex I was assigned at birth "fits" my conception of myself, then I don't really notice the fit. It becomes much more apparent to a person if it doesn't fit.

Secondly, and relatedly, Serano writes:
 "Having only ever had a trans experience, it took me a long time to realize how differently I experience and process gender compared to the way most cissexuals do. For example, a few months after I had begun living full-time as a woman, a male friend of mine asked me if I had ever accidentally gone into a men's restroom by mistake. 
At first, the question struck me as bizarre. When I gave him a perplexed look, he tried to clarify himself. He said that he doesn't ever think about what restroom he is entering, never really notices the little 'man' symbol on the door, but he always ends up in the right place anyway.

.... I laughed and told him that there had never been a single instance in my life when I had walked into a public restroom- women's or men's- by habit; my entire life I have been excruciatingly aware of any gendered space that I enter."
I think that anecdote can also be a revelation for cis people. 

Just as her friend did, I've mistaked my personal experience with gender identity for, well, everyone's experience with gender identity. (Yes, totally egocentric, I know #fauxbjectivity).  I've long been supportive of trans* people's self-determination of their own identities, but my understanding of these experiences and differences between cis experiences was very much on a surface level.

I also like Serano's call to challenge "gender entitlement" that she describes as the "privileging one's own perceptions, interpretations, and evaluations of other people's genders over the way those people understand themselves."  I know that call isn't going to go over well with the "I like clear-cut binary rules about gender" crowd, but I think it's a way to be respectful of other people's autonomy, boundaries, and experiences.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Blogging Priorities, Again

Well, this thread might be fun for people to read.

Or not, because there's lots of 'splainin going on about what does and doesn't count as sexism against women.

I would like to revisit my final point in the thread, however. After going round and round trying to encourage (mostly unsuccessfully) a couple of men to listen to women's experiences of sexism and harassment, I noted:
"Just to conclude this conversation, I think what I’m about to say might come as a surprise to some of the men here.

Speaking for myself, getting men to agree with me about what is and isn’t sexist is not my numero uno priority with respect to these conversations and, more generally, my blogging activities. Sure, it’s nice when it happens and I appreciate male allies.

But, over the years, like many feminist bloggers, I’ve found a much greater satisfaction in having my observations, arguments, and writings resonate with my female readership. Hundreds of women have emailed me over the years to thank me for expressing something problematic about sexism, gender, or culture that they’ve been unable to articulate.

Some have told me they’ve printed out particular posts I’ve written, saying that they were looking forward to discussing them with their daughters. Others write to say that they read my blog every day, but they’re too shy to comment, or they lack the confidence, or they don’t want to say something and have a man show up at my blog and attack them for it.

So, you know, having these types of Feminist 101 conversations with men, where I’ve engaged these exact same arguments countless times, is not why I continue to do this. (And seriously, I could have predicted the entire progression of this conversation starting with Hector’s “PC run amok” and ending with Kevin’s gotcha-double-standards that fail to account for all context and history of subordination).
Over the years of my blogging, I've really come to appreciate how my posts resonate with many women. In many ways, our society tells women that we're innately crazy, vapid, hysterical, overly-emotional, and hyper-sensitive and that our anger is unjustified, pathological, and silly.  Women These Days, especially in "the West," Really Have No Reason To Complain.

Patriarchy is, like, such a gaslighter, right? 

If my posts resonate with other women's experiences, somehow letting them know that nope, you're not actually "crazy," certain aspects of society really are shit, that's enough for me. If I can convince some men of that too, maybe have some laughs along the way, that's swell.

I also think there's a certain power in telling a man, "You know what? I don't care if you agree with me." It at least seems to stop some of them in their tracks a little.

Perhaps because it subverts the dominant scripts that (a) pleasing a man is a woman's most important prerogative, and (b) that getting a man to agree with us is something that's Really Special since a man's word is more trustworthy, authentic, and objective than a woman's.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gender Traditionalist Misandry, Again

[Content note: sexual violence]

So says anti-feminist Phylis Schlafly, on women in combat:
"Military women are already complaining about increased sexual assaults, and of course those problems will skyrocket. Only men will be deemed at fault because it is feminist ideology that men are innately batterers and women are victims."
There's a lot to unpack here and, what do you know, I'm up for it today!

Here, Schlafly claims that more women in the military will result in a great increase in sexual assaults of women in the military. If you read nothing else in this post, I encourage you to at least notice how this conclusion only works if an underlying premise is that men are innately predatory.

Relatedly, it's curious that Schlafly conflates "rapists" with "batterers" here but, I believe, it's mostly just evidence of her sloppy thinking that seems to place people in monolithic groups. As though, in her mind, there's no relevant distinction between rapists and batterers, just as there are no relevant distinctions between any types of "feminist ideology."

Anyway, my larger point is that, like many MRA/gender traditionalist types, Schlafly doesn't seem to pick up on the fact that she's projecting her own misandry onto her usual villains, the feminists.

Nor does she seem to notice that she's intellectually stuck in 1972, responding to a handful of radical second-wave feminists, and that the rest of the world and, certainly feminism, has progressed, moved on, and adapted its thinking. Many of today's feminists, for instance, rather than viewing men as innate "batterers," predators, or rapists, recognize that women, too, can assault and sexually assault people, including men- a recognition that logically precludes the holder of such views from seeing men as innately predatory and women as innate victims.

But, let's take a moment to ponder how Schlafly would respond to that revelation...


Ridicule of men for becoming "weak" and "feminized"?

More blaming of feminism for, now, supposedly making women violent or for "turning women into men"?

The more I see gender traditionalists and gender complementarists opining on gender, often with the help of their un-scientific religious or pseudo-scientified evopsych beliefs, the more I see that of course gender traditionalists think men are innate predators.

They just don't tend recognize their own misandry because they also quite often believe that men are entitled to be predatory, violent, and aggressive because they also often think that male violence, when Properly Channeled, serves the important function of protecting women, children, and society.

To them, the world is often divided into two classes of men, Good Protector Men and Evil Violent Men, failing to recognize that some men can be protective of "their" women while violent toward others, or other variations of people not being completely, 100% Good or Evil.

So, when members of the so-called protector class of, say, male soldiers rape people, they invisibilize the men who commit the crime and, instead, blame women (usually) for going and getting themselves raped. Or they blame male-on-male sexual assault entirely on the class of men they deem to be inauthentic men- gay men. (Nevermind that, in the military, it's actually often heterosexual men who assault and sexually assault and harass non-heterosexual men).

After all, these gender traditionalists implicitly argue, violent is just what Real Men are. That's why, as Schlafly alludes, it's not really men's fault if they rape people- it's the fault of feminists for putting women in these situations where men can't help but rape them.

Of all the times it is most appropriate to center men in any given conversation, it is in instances where men engage in violence. Yet, these instances are often precisely the moment that anti-feminists and MRAs step back and instead center feminism as the core explanation for men's misbehavior.

Rather than expecting men to change, the gender traditionalist expects society and women to adapt to the reality of male violence and predation. If we think otherwise, that men should adapt to civil society, we're being So Mean to men.  It's, to them, evidence of how feminists are So Man-Hating.

And so it goes that MRA/gender traditionalists' working definition of a misandrist is a person who argues not that all men are violent rapists, but that society should stop granting men entitlement to engage in violence.

Monday, February 4, 2013

On PC, Again

It's official.

After years of Internet Arguing, I've come to the conclusion that the phrase "that's a bunch of political correctness run amok [or awry]" is definitely one of the top 5 most intellectually-vapid responses to being told that one's statement is racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise problematic.

People who utter this one often think that people "cry sexism" (or any -ism) not because there's something genuinely problematic happening, but because we want to shut down thought and shut down conversation.

But, what the hell are we supposed to do with this "PC gone too far" accusation?

What does it even mean?

(I hate this over-used saying too,) but I really don't think political correctness means what people think it means.

Because I'll tell ya what it means. When I hear it, I automatically bristle, because it's become a stand-in for:
"I'm going to be a jerk and if you call me out for it, I'm going to pretend you're the problem for being oversensitive."
It's a complete failure to both listen to and to engage an argument. It's profoundly uncivil.

On all counts, it doesn't even try.

It's a refuge for people who are too lazy to form coherent, meaningful arguments as they smugly believe that the wrongness of the PC Gone Awry Crowd is so self-evident it doesn't even have to be addressed.

Friday, February 1, 2013


I can think of about 751 things to do that are more educational, worthwhile, and entertaining for me than talking gender with someone who baldly asserts that men and women (all of them, of course) behave the way they do for "obvious, evolutionary" reasons.

I mean, gawd, where do you even start? Can we name even one aspect of gender that is "obvious"?

My patience for engaging all the people who are wrong on Internet wears thin.

Say ... "What is Internet, anyway?"