Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Fun

Welp, I'm finding myself unexpectedly excited about the fact that The L Word is now streaming on Netflix.

Although the show is one that many lesbian, bisexual, and queer ladies love to hate (or is that hate to love?), I remember it feeling like a Really Big Deal when it premiered almost 10 years ago.  My friends and I, who didn't have Showtime, would pile into neighborhood bars or house parties to view the show each Sunday, aggressively shushing people so we could hear every word. (Is shushing people ever not louder than whatever is being said?)

Anyway, I watched a couple episodes last night, and they felt a bit dated with their earnest and somewhat heavy-handed treatment of certain Gay Issues Of The Day. The best scenes by far, in my opinion, are those where the group is simply together, say, ascertaining the sexual orientation of a certain "soup" chef, getting down with their bad selves at Dinah Shore, or hanging out at The Planet.

To conclude this Very Deep Post: (a) I thought Dana Fairbanks was the best character, in all her adorkable sporty glory, and am not over her demise; (b) I am probably 1 of 7 people in the world who actually liked Jenny Schecter; and (c) I'm pretty sure I make this face on a daily basis whilst reading Internet:


Talk about whatever today!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

SCOTUS Takes Up DOMA and Prop 8

It has been, of course, a big week at the US Supreme Court with respect to same-sex marriage.

I've been mostly following the arguments and recaps at SCOTUSblog. There are many good roundups at the site, two interesting pieces of which include commentator Lyle Denniston saying "DOMA is in trouble" and Amy Howe breaking down the Prop 8 arguments "in Plan English."

In her post, Howe suggests that the Justices may not reach the merits of the Prop 8 case at all, since Prop 8 is being defended not by the State but by the proponents of the ballot initiative. What that means is that the proponents of Prop 8 may lack "standing" to bring the case.

Back to DOMA, though, Denniston recounts how Justice Kennedy "seemed troubled" by the way that DOMA prohibits same-sex couples who are legally married in a state from receiving federal benefits of marriage and by the way that DOMA interferes with the "traditional authority" of the states to regulate marriage.

Feel free to discuss these cases, the briefs, the articles, and/or specific arguments in the comments.

I would like to end with one observation. At this blog, in the context of civility, we sometimes discuss the difference between intent and effect, and concede that an action or statement may be harmful even if that was not the intent of the person making it.

That mixed-sex relationships oftentimes result in procreation is often put forth as a civil, non-religious reason for limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Yet, my primary issue with a legal system that affords separate and unequal rights to same-sex couples and mixed-sex couples is that, pragmatically, DOMA and Prop 8 only test the gender composition of a couple, not the couple's actual procreative ability. That some states, like my own, grant the exact same state-level rights of marriage while calling the legal status by a different name, like "civil union" which is supposedly definitely not marriage, appears similarly irrational.

I realize that to those who have been involved in this conversation for years, I'm not making a new argument or saying anything that hasn't been said a million times already.  And yes, I realize that some, including the legislators who were in support of DOMA, believe that it would be "offensive" to inquire, prior to marriage, into whether a mixed-sex couple were capable of procreation. Apparently, it matters a lot when heterosexuals might be offended, as opposed to when same-sex couples might be offended!

But to me, and to many others (judging by the traction this argument gets), the overbroad nature of letting mixed-couples marry who cannot procreate together while excluding all same-sex couples from marriage for precisely that reason has an effect of suggesting that the same-sex couple sub-category of couples who cannot procreate together cannot marry because they are tainted by the purported moral inferiority of homosexuality.

At the same time, I think we would be remiss in not acknowledging the actual intent behind DOMA, as it was not as entirely benign as is sometimes claimed.

In 1996, one of the reasons that the House Committee on the Judiciary put forth for supporting DOMA was, actually, to enshrine the moral inferiority of homosexuality into law. This Committee wrote (PDF):

"Civil laws that permit only heterosexual marriage reflect and honor a collective moral judgment about human sexuality. This judgment entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality."
In the current context in which it is often fashionable for some opponents of same-sex marriage to be more offended when one's views are called anti-gay than to be offended about holding anti-gay beliefs, I think the incredibly problematic aspects of the legislative history of DOMA sometimes get a little bit overlooked and erased.

If one of the purported goals of DOMA was to reflect and honor a collective moral disapproval of homosexuality, that seems to be an admission that the law actually does reflect and honor a collective moral disapproval of homosexuality. Knowing that context and background, I think it's incredibly difficult for supporters of DOMA to claim, in good faith, that their support of DOMA is not, likewise, expressing a similar disapproval.

[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog]

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's the PC Police, Again!

Via Echidne, via a letter to the editor, one man is Very Upset that LDS women will, for apparently the first time ever, be allowed to offer invocations and benedictions at the religion's General Conference. He whinges:

"Woman was created for man; this world was made for men to lead households and prayers. Man was created in God’s image — not in a woman’s image. 

American society has become so politically correct that it has spilled over to theology. Women, as well as children, may sing in church and participate in other ways."
What a small little world this man must live in, trying so very hard to maintain the mythical notion of male supremacy against a world that is moving on.  It's a War On Men, I tell ya!

Notable here though is yet another usage of that nearly-meaningless phrase "politically correct."

In this instance, the user of the phrase purports that his biblical fairy tale thinking about gender is the real truth, and that those who believe that women can just as competently lead prayers as men can are full of malarky. 

The usage seems to be a defense mechanism that prevents its utterer from recognizing that maybe, just maybe, he's not automatically superior to half of humanity just because he's a man.  I imagine that the impending loss of all that unearned status must truly be scary for some men.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On Sock-Puppeting and Entitlement

In the past couple weeks, at blogs that I write for, three different men have engaged in sock-puppeting to try to continue commenting after they had been banned for their hostility and unwillingness to engage in good faith.

All of these men, not surprisingly, had also expressed contempt for civility and the concept of "other people's right to set boundaries." That they would continue barging in, in even an online space, into a forum in which their presence was not wanted is therefore not surprising.

In the more than six years I've been blogging, I've banned maybe a dozen commenters from my blog. From these experiences, and by reading countless blogs in which disruptive, hostile commenters have been banned, I've come to expect that people who are contemptuous of civility and boundaries will also to try to get around bans in some way, either by privately emailing the blogger to "continue" a conversation or by sock-puppeting.

Many times, banned commenters continue lurking, reading this blog, perhaps for the purpose of letting their seething contempt and resentment toward me build up, as they apparently have nothing productive to offer to an online conversation other than to document all of my purported Internet "misdeeds," "sins," and "hypocrisies."

What's a blogger gonna do? Haters gonna hate. Some people create. Others live to nitpick, destroy, and tear people down.

I don't have some big huge point to make here other than to note that if people can't respect simple Internet boundaries like "please don't comment on this blog anymore," I mostly worry about how their entitlement to traverse other people's boundaries affects their interactions with people in the physical world.  How people act in some situations can be a good test, or indicator, as to how they act in other situations. Rarely, I think, does an Internet Asshole limit his behavior only to the Internet. A person either believes that other people have the right to set boundaries in their own space, or they don't.  Full stop.

So, like, how's that rape culture mentality workin' out for ya, pal?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Somebody Call the Gender Police!

[Content note: Trans* bigotry]

Usually when I use the term "gender police," I'm being metaphorical.

Arizona state Representative John Kavanagh, however, has proposed legislation that would make it illegal, and would carry a jail term, for someone to use public restroom, shower, or locker room facilities that are marked for a sex other than that which is marked on the person's birth certificate.

He purports that the legislation:
'“is designed to protect young children from being exposed to the other gender in their fullness in inappropriate situations. I'm just restoring sanity, because the Phoenix bill turned gender upside down.'”
The other bill he references is one that provided discrimination protections to transgender people in public accommodations.

There's a lot going on here.

For one, Kavanagh's statement and proposed legislation play into the trope that transgender people are inherently predatory and dangerous to children. Yet, according to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (PDF), 53% of transgender respondents reported being verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation. And, 22% report harassment by police, 16% report being physically assaulted in jail/prison, and 15% report being sexually assaulted in jail/prison. (And, actually, this survey demonstrates that many transgender people experience harassment in nearly every sphere of life).

Meanwhile, according to the same survey, 41% of respondents reported living without ID that matches their gender identity, so... it's profoundly cruel and ignorant to suggest that it's primarily transgender people who pose a public threat, and to advance legislation that would pointlessly put transgender people into even more contact with the criminal justice system.

I mean, does Kavanagh know any of this? Did he seek out this kind of information or input from transgender people or advocacy groups at all before using his power to propose legislation that could so profoundly impact their lives, safety, and well-being?

My sincere sympathies go out to transgender people who might live in a heightened state of fear, anger, and/or sadness due to this proposed legislation.

Two, it's not difficult to foresee how such the enforcement of such a law could also be used to police the gender of non-gender-conforming cis people. I have several friends, for instance, who regularly get the "double-take" when they enter public restrooms, and sometimes people even outright "inform" them that they are in the "wrong" restroom.

Are Concerned Citizens going to start putting people under citizen's arrest, or calling the police, if they think someone's in the "wrong" restroom?  To what extent is it going to be an expectation for people to start pre-emptively carrying their birth certificates with them if they think they might have to use a public restroom at some point?

Third, and on a lighter note, Kavanagh also proudly states that his proposal is also addressing the "specter" of people who use the wrong restroom just because they are, in his words, "weird."  Okay, look. This is a sign of my privilege that I can "get away with" doing this, but I use the men's bathroom somewhat frequently when I'm, say, at an Indigo Girls' concert or at a gay bar that has an enormous men's restroom but, like, only one stall for women.  And....yes, as I typed that out, I realized that my bathroom, concert, and bar habits are probably "weird" to Kavanagh, but I also reject the notion that he's the Big Decider of what's normal and what's not, because really....

What. the. hell is with his dorky phrase "the other gender in their fullness"?

The guy can legislate about people's bodies but he might pass out on his fainting couch if he actually utters the words "naked" or "genitals"? Put your big boy pants on, pal, you're a state representative for god's sake.

You know, it's funny, in a FML sorta way, that progressives are so often accused of being oversensitive and too darn politically correct. Instances like these just show that if the right buttons are pushed, everyone has their limits of what or who they consider too sensitive to discuss in polite company.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Laugh of the Day

Via Shakesville (via Bloomberg Businessweek):

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum apparently had a super secret plan to form a "Unity Ticket" that they believed would topple Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign.  Unfortunately, however:
"...the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president."

*sad trombone*

Thursday, March 21, 2013

See, There Is This Thing Called Rape Culture...

[Content note: rape culture]

It seems that Henry Rollins meant well when he wrote this piece on the Steubenville rape cases, and I agree with most of what he says. I'm appreciative of his sentiment and I don't want that to get lost in what I'm about to say.


By approaching the issue of rape culture from a perspective of, "For the last couple of hours, I have been thinking of the verdict" and then going on to pretty much describe rape culture as though rape culture has never been talked about before, Rollins suggests that he's perhaps not thought much about rape culture until he learned of this incident.

That so many people choose not to think about rape culture until a high profile case that's relatively "easy" for people to condemn, in part, because actual footage of the rape exists, in itself, seems to be a symptom of rape culture. 

Furthermore, feminists have been saying all of what he says in his piece, of course, for years.

Rollins makes no reference to this ongoing woman-led, feminist-led conversation about rape culture. Indeed, he proposes solutions, off-the-cuff, with no reference to solutions that women have proposed or have been proposing for years. The subtext suggests that maybe he believes in rape culture, not because people, especially women, have been talking about it for years, but because he watched a video and read commentary about Steubenville for a few hours and saw it in action.

That, the ignoring and ignorance of women speaking for years about our lived experiences, seems to be a symptom of rape culture too.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WBC Gets New Neighbors

Across from the extremely anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a nonprofit called Planting Peace has bought a house which will serve as a hub for anti-bullying initiatives. The house, which will be called "Equality House," has been painted to match the gay pride flag.

I like that concept as it is a literal and symbolic challenge to the WBC's rhetoric. And, I agree with Planting Peace's co-founder Aaron Jackson when he notes that the WBC has waning relevance, especially in light of formerly anti-gay politicians and Republicans "jumping ship" from anti-gay activism as it seems to be losing popular appeal.

Yet, I want to address his comment here:
 "[The Phelps'] own the majority of the homes in the community, and I walk through the area every day, and I see them running in between each other's houses," [Jackson] said. "One day I was walking, and Shirley Phelps [one of Westboro's main spokespeople and the daughter of the church's leader, Fred Phelps] was on her four-wheeler. And I said, 'Hey guys, how are you?' And [she and her husband] responded, 'Oh, we're good. How are you?' We had a short conversation, and she was extremely nice, and she made a joke and we all laughed."

"It's the craziest thing -- and it really throws you off -- because she's the type of woman who calls you 'hun' and 'darling' -- she's very Southern," he said. "It's like, aren't you the lady that's supposed to be casting me into hell? It's truly mind-boggling, but I can't say anything personally bad about her because she was kind to me and she made me laugh. She'd probably be fun to hang out with."
To me, this commentary reveals much about the binary, dehumanizing manner that "culture wars" in the US are waged.  The WBC is often put forth as perhaps the most problematic anti-gay hate group in the US.  Indeed, if opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage can agree on anything, it's that the WBC is hateful and extreme. And, I would agree.

Yet, are we truly confounded by the fact that Shirley Phelps isn't 100% pure evil?
doesn't actually spend her days cackling into a cauldron and turning her neighbors into toads? Is it a shock that she can, say, be friendly in some contexts and really problematic in others?

It seems to me that an important step in recognizing, owning, and acknowledging problematic beliefs is ridding ourselves of the notions that (a) if a person holds bigoted views then that person must be entirely evil, and likewise, that (b) if a person is nice in some (or even many) contexts than that person is largely incapable of wrongdoing in other contexts.

That seems obvious to point out, but it's not often treated as an obvious proposition.

[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog]

[Update:  A reader brought it to my attention that my previous wording of this post perpetuated negative stereotypes about people who practice paganism and who identify as witches. I agree with her, and apologize.]

Monday, March 18, 2013


In line with Friday's post on the impending end of Google Reader, I'm quite surprised any of you gals even know how to get on Internet .... without the use of this Special Lady Computer, that is. 

But seriously, in addition to one spokesman "insisting" that the product "isn't sexist," the following description tells us just about everything we need to know about it (because who cares about memory, hard drive, processor speed, screen size, or any of that technical mumbo-jumbo right?):
"The Tablet comes preloaded with applications so you can just turn it on and log in to cooking recipes or yoga," Mani Nair, Associate Vice President for Marketing at Eurostar Group, told the Jerusalem Post. "It makes a perfect gadget for a woman who might find difficulties in terms of downloading these applications and it is a quick reference."
I also saw some comments to the effect of how this product Just Shows How Backward the Middle-East is. You know, because pointlessly sex-segregated products based on stereotypes of men and women never happen here in the enlightened US.

Now, let's see.... if I could only find that whatsitmabop that tells me how to "publish" blog posts..... hold on a sec, let me ask my non-existent husband.... ah, there we go....

Friday, March 15, 2013

RSS Feed Alternatives and Stuff


I don't want the blogs to go away!  Internet, please don't make them go away!

Okay, I'm fine. Really.

But who else uses Google Reader? What are you going to use, if anything, to manage your blog subscriptions after July 1?  Know of any good alternatives?

[Content note: MRA entitlement shit]

And secondly, as a general blogging note, since it's come up yet again in response to this post.... I'm not sure what, other than an incredible amount of asshole-ish entitlement, compels some male trolls to pop in here and suggest that I'm an entitled uppity bitch for having boundaries around what comments are and are not acceptable in this space.

In case there's confusion, the name of this blog is Fannie's Room.

I have created this blog and have been maintaining it and providing content to it for about 6 years. So, of course I get to say who is and isn't allowed to comment here and what comments get to be deleted.  Of course I don't have to engage MRA trolls if I don't want to. 

Why on earth would an MRA troll think otherwise?  Why on earth would he think it's some sort of "threat" that he's posted asinine comments that aren't 10% as brilliant as he thinks they are and taken "screen shots" of them? Is there, like, a Super Internet Court that I'm not aware of where someone is the Ultimate Decider about who a Winner is an Internet Conversation? Why would he go to different locations just to get around an IP address ban so he can continue commenting here, demanding that people interact with him, in a space in which neither he nor his comments are wanted?

(I realize the answer to most of these questions is "Oh, right, that whole MRA outlook")

So, I know this blog started out all simply like "Oh, RSS feeds la la la," and then I totally diverged.  But, you know, this comes up with relative frequency so I thought I'd just roll with these thoughts today.

Because my larger point is this, if a man is incapable of grasping the notion that a woman is of course entitled to have boundaries at her own blog, why would I ever think he would in any way treat my arguments or opinions seriously on any substantive, serious issues like hate crimes or rape against women?

Why would I think he's here on anything other than a "gotcha" MRA mission?  Why would I think he's here to do anything other than Teach The Lady Feminists?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Don't Threaten Me For Saying This, But...."

Since I wrote this post on the way some men precede their conversations with feminists with a "joke" along the lines of, "Don't kill me for saying this, but...", I've seen men engage that "joke" about a handful of times on Internet.

When the problematic nature of that "joke" has been pointed out to them, they've either remained silent or insisted that they had only good intentions in saying it.  Which, while I think they may have thought they had good intentions in making the "joke," I question the accuracy of that description given that the very crux of the "joke" is to assume that the feminist woman one is speaking is on the verge of reacting violently to whatever it is the man is about to say.

Since some men are incapable of centering the perspective of other people when considering the problematic aspect of this joke, let me help illustrate it in a way that might hit home for them.

What if, from now on, when conversing with avowed anti-feminist and non-feminist men, I preceded all of my arguments with, "Don't threaten to rape me for saying this, but...."?

How might that play into pre-existing narratives about men?  Not so funny and harmless anymore is it?

And, actually, I reckon that in the real world, as opposed to the cartoon world in which all feminists are violent man-hating harpies, feminist women receive such threats far more often than non-feminist men are "killed" by feminists for saying non-feminist things.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quote of the Day

Laurie Penny, talking about my fave topic:

"The term 'political correctness' is commonly used to reframe racist or reactionary ideas as somehow rebellious. It is used to silence the anger of people who complain about injustice and hate speech by recasting them as bloodless censors. When I’m accused of political correctness, it’s almost always by somebody who is frantically hanging on to their deep-seated prejudices about people who look, live or sound slightly different to them.

Reactionaries and conservatives practise precisely the kind of political correctness of which they accuse the left – but they call it 'decency' and 'morality'. Which is a rather PC way of referring to shutting down dissent.

We are informed that freedom of speech, if it means anything, is the right to be offensive. The question is whether or not, in these paranoid, sphincter-clenching times, it means anything else. From the weird, late-night back alleys of the internet to the pages of daily papers with millions of readers, freedom of speech has become synonymous with 'freedom to attack the vulnerable' – and that’s about it."
When I hear someone utter the phrase "political correctness" used in sincerity, I tune out.  I'm not ashamed to admit it. People who say that are simply not the brave truth-tellers they think are.  

And of course conservatives have their own version of political correctness, as evidenced by mixed-company tap-dancing conversations where, if the conversations are to happen, we aren't to say that anyone is being sexist or racist or anything.... we're know.... maybe we can all take a step back and re-think how some views might be.... you know... problematic.... or something?

It's like many critics of "PC" thinking believe that standing up against problematic behavior is all "PC gone too far" .... well, until someone gets called a bigot, and then shit gets real.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

American Independent: Regnerus Study Influenced by Funders

The American Independent has obtained documents and emails from a public records request showing that the widely-critiqued Regnerus study was timed to influence "major decisions of the Supreme Court" and that, contrary to language in the study purporting otherwise, The Witherspoon Institute may have played a larger role in the study than claimed.

Sofia Resnick reports:
"[The documents] show that the Witherspoon Institute recruited a professor from a major university to carry out a study that was designed to manipulate public policy. In communicating with donors about the research project, Witherspoon’s president clearly expected results unfavorable to the gay-marriage movement.

The think tank’s efforts paid off. The New Family Structures Study came out just in time for opponents of gay marriage to cite it in multiple federal cases involving marriage equality – including two cases soon to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.....
Records show that an academic consultant hired by UT to conduct data analysis for the project was a longtime fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, which shelled out about $700,000 for the research. Documentation about University of Virginia associate sociology professor W. Bradford Wilcox’s dual roles contradict Regnerus’ assertions that the think tank wasn’t involved with how the study was designed or carried out.
Religious right groups such as the Witherspoon Institute have for years been challenging the legality of gay marriage on all fronts and trying to amass data that that can be used to sway the public, lawmakers, and the courts to their side of the debate. Groups seeking to block gay marriage have been eager to use Regnerus’ study – and even further twist his findings – as evidence that gay parents are inferior to straight parents.
So far, the New Family Structures Study has been cited in United States v. Windsor, a challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which seeks to overturn California’s gay-marriage ban, Proposition 8."
I believe that the main issues with respect to the Regnerus study are substantive flaws. These do not need to be re-hashed, as I originally hashed them out here (and many others have done so as well). At the same time, the two above-cited issues of concern, seem to be more.... concerning since the release of the documents.

Barry Deutsch questioned Wilcox's dual roles back in October. And Wilcox responded in his own words, saying:
"I served as a fellow and as the director of the program on marriage, family, and democracy at the Witherspoon Institute from 2004 to 2011. These positions were honorific, and designed to highlight my writing and speaking on family-related issue."
Language in the study itself claimed that the Witherspoon Institute played "no role at all in the design or conduct of the study, the analyses, the interpretations of the data, or in the preparation of [the study.]"

Yet, Resnick cites an email suggesting otherwise:
"In the early stages of the New Family Structures Study – before data was collected and long before any results were known – the Witherspoon Institute’s president, Luis Tellez, made it clear to Regnerus that expediency was paramount.

'Naturally we would like to move along as expeditiously as possible but experience suggests we ought not to get hung up with deadlines, do what is right and best, move on it, don’t dilly dolly, etc.,' Tellez wrote in a Sept. 22, 2010 email. 'It would be great to have this before major decisions of the Supreme Court but that is secondary to the need to do this and do it well. I would like you to take ownership and think of how would you want it done, rather than someone like me dictating parameters but of course, here to help.'”
To me, this email doesn't suggest that the Witherspoon Institute engaged in anything extraordinarily damning from a methodological standpoint, but it is pretty explicit that having the study available for the Supreme Court to consider is at least one motivating factor for the study to happen. Technically, urging the study to take place quickly so it can be used in court cases, is involvement in the "conduct" and "preparation" of the study.

In addition, Renick claims that emails exist of "examples of Wilcox making decisions on behalf of Witherspoon and of Tellez insisting Wilcox be present at certain meetings alongside Regnerus," suggesting that his role was more than simply "honorific." In one email, Regnerus purportedly asks Wilcox for feedback on the funders' "'boundaries' around this project" and "their hopes for what emerges from this project."

I know in the past that some people, including David Blankenhorn, have expressed a distaste for the Public Information Act (or, perhaps, the distaste is just toward the application of the Act to this particular case?), which was implicated because of Regnerus' association with the University of Texas.

Yet, open and honest government is (purportedly) a cornerstone of American government. And, this study was purporting to tell certain truths, both substantively with respect to outcomes and procedurally with respect to the influence of its funders, with the weight, legitimacy, and authority of the University of Texas behind it. Yet, these records suggest more of an influence from Witherspoon than what the study's disclaimer purports, and what both Regnerus and Wilcox have claimed.

And, that troubles me.

In my original critique of the study I was very clear about not ascribing anyone involved "with having evil or malicious intent here."  I'm not sure if I would use the word evil, but this study does seem especially tainted now, in my opinion, by this influence and dishonesty. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

That One About the Hate Crime Proponent

[Content note: Gender-based violence, misogyny, dehumanization, mention of self-harm]

Well, these comments happened here over the weekend. "Avenger" dropped by to embiggen the anti-feminist discourse:
"I've stood and watched man haters get the stuffing beaten out of them. It's fun. I've never heard them 'roar', only whimper and beg while hoping that I might intervene. Na, he's a big boy I'm pretty sure he can take you 'princess'.. How hypocritical, "I'm just a girl"... How pathetic, I was glad when the guy blasted her in the face, shutting her entitlement ass up. So I bought him a beer and we laughed. Good times. I think I'll go out tonight and goad a man hater into a physical altercation. I like to mix it up."
And, he apparently wasn't finished. He had to come back and add:
"I'm so glad that chivalry is dead. We can finally beat the hell out of you man haters and feel no remorse about doing so. One time I hit a bitch right in the nose, open palm. I thought I might have killed it, so I left the area quickly. The paper had a blurb about the 'senseless' violence from the night before. So it didn't die, but will be forever scarred and live the rest of it's pathetic existence in fear. Good, one less man hater to infect the world. Take back the night, lol plenty of fun to be had at those gatherings, believe me."
His DISQUS profile has him making similar comments on Saturday March 9, 2013 at another site.  Not sure what got his boxers in a bunch that day.

Was he trolling? Perhaps.

Although, I prefer to leave these types of comments up on my blog because, actually, rather than the minimizing term "trolling," I prefer to call these types of comments by the more accurate phrases, "using the Internet to admit to having committed a gender-based hate crime against women and threatening to do so again" and "evidence in a potential criminal investigation."

Two, you know that little joke that men, non-feminists, and anti-feminists like to make? That one where they "jokingly" precede their "devil's advocate" musings against feminist arguments with statements like, "I'm gonna get clobbered for saying this" or "I'm just going to say this and run away"?

Well, Avenger's comments above, which are not rare for many feminist women bloggers to receive, illustrate another important reason why those jokes that pre-emptively assume that a feminist woman cannot handle a counter-argument without resorting to violence are remarkably unfunny and uncivil.  The "joke" is not funny, not cute, not fair, and not civil, because the lived reality for many feminist women is that making a feminist argument, even in explicitly feminist spaces, results in some sort of violent or aggressive verbal outburst from men.  

By implying that the reverse is true, that it's feminist women who regularly and frequently threaten to assault male critics, the "joke" erases this reality.  It puts women on notice to be on their best, civil behavior, because they've been pre-emptively framed as being violent and unable to engage in rational, civil dialogue.  It tells women to prioritize making the men in the conversation feel 100% comfortable and non-threatened, while disregarding the fact that "trolls" (or, Hate Crime Advocates, as I would call "Avenger") feel entitled to engage in aggression when they encounter even the most tepid feminist arguments.  (Like, seriously? My "What Would You Do if You Witnessed Bigotry" post? Really?)

Seems fair.

Secondly, I want to discuss these comments in my ongoing conversations at Family Scholars Blog about civility (that I also cross-post here in Fannie's Room).  Issues of civility, I think, are especially important to be mindful of in heated "mixed-company" conversations, and I think for that reason, my posts on civility tend to be engaged more by commenters at FSB at that forum than here.

There, many commenters have been receptive to my posts on civility. It's been the minority who have not, instead suggesting that I (or "people" in general) need to grow a thicker skin, that's it's stupid to expect more from people in a purportedly civil society, and that conversations about civility are PC gone too far.

Yet, I see small acts of incivility that go unchecked as degrading the humanity of other people and thereby, at least somewhat entitling larger acts of incivility.  If someone, for instance, sees no problem with inaptly calling a Christian a "wingnut" or calling a gay man a "homofascist," both degrading terms, on what basis does or can this person rationally object to "Avenger's" commentary?  Shouldn't we just grow a thicker skin, after all?  Shouldn't we just "expect" that people will act like this on Internet, and live with that?

Here, I think it's important to question the critic's suggestion that people who promote civility are weak and over-sensitive.  I contend that such critics, often people who don't even blog themselves, are ignorant of the extent of the aggression and hatred that many bloggers, especially women, face.  During my years of blogging, men have made veiled rape threats against me, have obsessively commented on my older posts telling me how "vile" lesbians "really are," and have left me explicit instructions on how I could and should commit suicide.

If a man wants to call me something, since that's something some men love to do, "thin-skinned" is not a word I find to be particularly accurate.

I continue blogging knowing that doing so means that I will continue enduring hostility. This hostility continues, I contend, precisely because so many people find basic civility and non-violence to be such a trivial matter deserving of contempt and mockery. The gist of my argument for civility is that people should be able to engage in debate, even contentious debate, without being personally attacked or threatened, either verbally or physically, in response. In an "anything goes" forum, which some libertarian-minded folks promote, I always wonder, whose voices are not being heard? Who is too threatened to comment? Who has stopped participating because they didn't want to endure abuse any longer?

I want the best ideas to win, not the best ideas of the people who can best endure hostility. That argument, I would think, is one that many people of varying political backgrounds could agree upon. If a person is openly contemptuous of the notion of civility, I admittedly question what they're even doing in spaces designed to foster conversation and debate.

Related: Men Call Me Things

[Note: A modified, shorter version of this post has been posted at Family Scholars Blog.]

Thursday, March 7, 2013

MMA Fighter Forced to Reveal She's Transgender

[Content note: trans* bigotry, homobigotry, psychological abuse]

Via Outsports:

"Fallon Fox never wanted to talk about being transsexual. The professional MMA fighter who's been tearing through opponents has been a woman to her training partners and opponents for the last five years. Now, due to circumstances beyond her control, she's being forced out of the closet well before she was ready.

'For years I've known at some point it's very likely the shoe would drop,' Fox told Outsports in a phone interview Tuesday. 'Maybe someone would guess that I'm trans. Maybe they would know me from my life before I transitioned. I've been waiting for that phone call to happen. And Saturday night, it happened.'

Fox was at dinner celebrating a victory when a call came through. It was from a reporter who asked probing questions that clearly lead to one conclusion: The reporter knew Fox's secret past. Within 48 hours she got a call from a former trainer who had been interviewed by the same reporter with the same questions. The secret of Fallon Fox was about to come out."
First, how unfortunate that Fox couldn't discuss her identity completely on her own terms. Reading through the article, she discusses being rejected by her family, who first put her in abusive "therapy" to first try to change her into a gay man so she could then turn into a straight man. She then took up Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and describes it as "the reason she gets up in the morning."

She talks of being scared that she won't be able to participate in MMA anymore. I sincerely hope she gets to continue, and in the women's division. Not only because the sport is her "life's passion," but because contrary to some ignorance and misconceptions (and, yeah, probably outright bigotry), "after 10 years of hormone therapy, and six years after gender reassignment surgery, any advantage she had after being born in a male body have been erased."

Were MMA an Olympic sport, she would be eligible to compete as a woman under the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Medical Commission's Stockholm Consensus (PDF).  This rule recognizes the medical opinion that any competitive advantage of a person who transitions from male to female does not exist after sexual reassignment surgery, gonadectomy more than 2 years ago, and hormone therapy "appropriate for the assigned sex."  (The rule also requires legal recognition of the athlete's assigned sex, but that seems tangentially relevant to athletic advantage/disadvantage).

Many articles describe her as being "dominant," but currently Fox's professional record is currently "just" 2-0, so I think it's a little too early to tell.  Nonetheless, I hope she gets the chance to continue her career and work her way up to some high-profile fights.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Would You Do If You Witnessed Bigotry?

Although the video is nearly a year old, the following has been circulating among my friends and acquaintances.

To summarize, it's a clip of the TV show What Would You? in which a group of actors enact a scenario in which a waitress is loudly rude to gay parents, who are eating with their children, in a restaurant in Texas. The other patrons of the restaurant are unaware that they are being filmed, and the question was whether or not anyone would take sides or get involved.

You can watch the entire 7-minute clip here, but for those who can't access the video, the waitress starts out by approaching the family's table, expressing a bit of confusion (and nosiness) about their family status, and then saying:
"I mean it's bad enough you're lesbians but you're also parents and they don't have a father. I think that's kind of bad...I think this is terrible. I think they need a Dad!"
The clip shows the actors repeatedly engaging in this set-up in front of different customers and, several times, the waitress acts a bit more aggressively, even going as far as refusing to serve the family.

The "surprise," and I've used quotes there because the surprise is the producer's framing not my own, is that many of the other customers in this Texas town got involved and stood up for the gay family. Apparently, this set-up was also done in New York, where customers were much less likely to get involved.  I'm not sure what, if anything, that "proves," but I did find it touching that, rather than being a bystander to rude behavior and bigotry, some people took a stand.

For instance, when the waitress tried to recruit other people into joining her bigotry, one woman told her, "[Gay families in public] don't bother me.... Actually, your behavior bothered me." Another man left the restaurant, came back, and delivered a touching note to the family that began, "Hello friends, I know it doesn't mean much, but I love you all...."

Only one person was shown supporting the waitress. When she asked the family headed by two gay men to leave, one man gave the waitress a thumbs up, a high five, and barked "good girl!" to the waitress.  When the man found out that he had been filmed, he refused to own his bigotry, instead claiming that he had high-fived the waitress because of "the food" and saying that he didn't want to be on the TV show (his face is blocked out in the clip).

So, it's an interesting video.

For one, the argument that kids raised by two women "need a father" (or that children raised by two men "need a mother") is often put forth as a "civil" reason to oppose same-sex marriage and/or same-sex couples raising children. Seeing that argument actually uttered to a lesbian couple, in front of the children they are raising together, kind of hits home to me just how uncivil that argument is.

And, make no mistake, my impression isn't a matter of ignoring "hard truths that must nonetheless be said." Nor is it a matter of "PC gone too far."

Like this waitress, people who argue that this family's children "need a father" know nothing about this family other than that it's a family headed by two people of the same sex. From these facts, they seem to presume to know a host of other facts, primarily that this family is inferior to all or most male-female-headed families. The implication is that very bad outcomes will result from this lack of "proper" gender representation among the parents, because men and women each bring unique (sometimes "complementary" is used) traits to the parenting table that no two women or no two men can ever possibly bring.

Yet, the claim that "all kids need a mom and dad" is an argument at best, and a vague bumper sticker slogan at worst. What it's not is a proven statement of fact. 

Nonetheless, the uncivil nature of vocally judging a same-sex-headed family in a restaurant, based solely on the fact that the parents were not of different sexes, seemed apparent to at least some of the bystanders in this video. And that, at least, makes me hopeful and happy.

Secondly, I'm curious, would you have gotten involved if you were a customer?  I think it can be difficult to say for sure how I would have responded as a bystander, but I would fathom that I would tell the waitress that I thought she was being rude, tell her manager why they were about to lose my business, ask the family if they were okay, and then leave the restaurant.

I'm particularly curious to hear how opponents of same-sex marriage and/or same-sex child-rearing would have reacted if they witnessed this scenario.

[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog]

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Militant Religious Fundamentalists Lambast Obama for Support of Marriage Equality

I'm referring to Al Qaeda, of course.

That has to be awkward for Team Anti-Equality/American Values/Family Values. 

And also, I'm once again reminded that if they could ever get over all that "our religion is the one true, best religion" intolerance/supremacy stuff, religious fundamentalists would actually comprise an incredibly scary coalition of hatred and oppression.