Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The War on Pop-Tart Guns

Oh gag me with a spoon.

Feminist critic Christina Hoff Sommers has done what she does best, badly, this time writing in Time about her fave topic, the so-called War On Boys in schools.
"As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”

In all these cases, school officials found the children to be in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies for firearms, which is clearly a ludicrous application of the rule. But common sense isn’t the only thing at stake here. In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys."
Is it ironic that this so-called war on boys prevents boys from playing war in schools? Who knows!  Who cares! Those male persecution complexes aren't going to feed into themselves!

What I do know for sure is that first and foremost girls and women were formally and/or legally banned from many forms and levels of education for many years in US history.  And, feminists who reference that history and context today in terms of their lingering effects are largely thought of as thin-skinned dummies who get our panties in a bunch over nothing.

Might gender gaps in wages and certain fields maybe be explained by this history and the concomitant social conditioning around gender? Nah. We're instead to believe that sure all that stuff about women's oppression happened a long time ago, but then a buncha other stuff happened mumble mumble equal opportunity not equal outcomes everything's fair now except boys have it worse now that they're expected to compete against girls and women as equals! *insert big "Men are #1" foam finger and start waiving it around*

But my my my, just look at the outrage! the hyperbole! the exaggeration! in the rhetoric when the so-called feminized school system does even the tiniest little thing to take away a boy's god-given, rightful place in the world to shape his pop-tarts into guns during lunchtime at his school.

Suddenly, the whole entire educational system is rigged against him! Suddenly, getting in trouble over playing at violence explains EVERYTHING about EVERY gender gap in which women might be outperforming men.

Which brings me to point two. The whole "schools is rigged against boys because they can't pretend violence anymore" argument only works if one believes that violence is inherent to boys and therefore cannot and should not ever be tempered.

That is, it's just another fuckin' way to say that it's a boy's world and everyone else just lives in it, because boys are violent and rough 'n tumble and whuddaryagunna do, ladies? Tut tut, you better keep yourselves safe and not go and get yourselves shot or raped!

And even though society wrings its non-existent hands every time a boy commits another school shooting, if we dare suggest that little boys not minimize gun violence by treating it as a form of play, or maybe if we even want to explore why little Tommy feels so compelled to nibble his pop-tart into a gun in the first place, it's a war I tell ya, a war! A war not against violence, but against boys!


Seriously, anti-feminists. Calm the fuck down.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Public Discourse Promotes Anti-Equality "Primer"

Back in June, I took note of a creepy "primer" purporting to give marriage equality opponents tips on how to better frame the marriage debate.

As I noted back then, key takeaways from this propaganda manual, er, "primer" include "elevat[ing] as spokesmen" gay people who oppose same-sex marriage, "telling bigger stories" that reverse who the victims and victimizers are, and subverting the "marriage equality" meme with "stickier" anti-equality memes.

So, basically more of the same "winning" strategies the anti-gay movement has been using for years all jotted down in one handy-dandy document which I hope will be in the appendix of a future history book as actual proof of there being an actual anti-equality agenda.  Because really, I'm starting to wonder if many anti-equality folks are so insular and insulated from opposing views that they maybe don't get that it's the reliance on these very strategies, strategies that gaslight LGBT people's lived experiences and aim to divide and drive wedges between marginalized populations, that many people find hateful.

Brian Brown (who doesn't seem to be the same guy from the National Organization for Marriage), has written a piece at the Public Discourse, promoting this new "primer" and discussing its key concepts. Funnily enough, his article's title is a sarcastic admission of sorts, "Now That We're All Haters..."

The ellipses are in the original title, for dramatic effect I suppose?, but *spoiler alert* his punchline isn't a conciliatory and apologetic "Sorry for the harm we've caused gay people, let's see how can come to a better understanding and try to temper this culture war a little."


Now that opponents of marriage equality think that everyone else thinks they're haters (but do we, really?)... the new goal seems to be to try to not look like haters whilst still opposing equality for same-sex couples while parroting superficial platitudes and sound-bites that don't embiggen the discourse.  

Because yes yes, we know. Whether or not people think marriage defenders are hateful bigots is the single most pressing concern in this entire culture war, a concern that must be centered in all conversations, especially mixed-company ones. Because god forbid we just not magically accept as benign the notion that "true marriage is more diverse" unlike "mono-gendered" marriage, and pretend that a catchphrase like that is not rooted in some serious sexist, supremacist, and shallow bullshit thinking about gender and sexuality.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Some Good News on a Friday

[Content note: gun violence]

This woman is a hero.

On Tuesday, a man entered a grade school in Atlanta armed with an assault rifle, exchanged shots with police, and ultimately surrendered. The school's bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff, was held hostage by the gunman and, in an interview with Diane Sawyer, reports convincing him to put his weapons down and surrender:
"'He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,' Tuff told ABC. 
She told him her life story, about how her marriage fell apart after 33 years and the 'roller coaster' of opening her own business. 
'I told him, 'OK, we all have situations in our lives,' she said. 'It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could, too.' 
Then Tuff said she asked the suspect to put his weapons down, empty his pockets and backpack on the floor. 
'I told the police he was giving himself up. I just talked him through it,' she said.
In an interview with WSB, an ABC affiliate, Tuff said she tried to keep Hill talking to prevent him from walking into the hallway or through the school building. 
'He had a look on him that he was willing to kill — matter of fact he said it. He said that he didn't have any reason to live and that he knew he was going to die today,' Tuff said, adding that Hill told her he was sure he'd be killed because he'd shot at police officers. 'I knew that if he got out that door he was gonna kill everybody,' she said."

After a gunman fatally shot 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, anti-feminist Charlotte Allen used her voice at the National Review Online to bemoan our purportedly "feminized" (i.e.- bad, weak, powerless) school system that purportedly allowed the incident to happen.

Specifically, she wondered how things might have turned out differently had there been a male janitor around to "heave his bucket" at the killer, or maybe even some "huskier twelve-year-old boys" to somehow converge on the killer and disarm him of his semi-automatic weapons. Of the women who threw themselves in front of bullets to protect children, not a word regarding their heroism.

Well, this woman - Antoinette Tuff, that is - did a heroic thing by using her humanity to connect with the humanity of a potential killer to de-escalate a terrifying situation. That is not a thing that is easy to do, especially when confronted with, potentially, one's own imminent death.  A common reaction, as Charlotte Allen demonstrates, is instead to dehumanize any real or perceived threat and then seek to eliminate it by, say, throwing buckets or, erm, 12-year-old boys at it.

Ms. Tuff is a hero despite the narratives that tell us that heroes must be physically violent, physically overpowering, and most importantly of all male (and usually white, as well).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wage Gap Begins Early

When I was a kid, I was good friends with some neighbors, who I'll call the Hendersons.  The Hendersons had 3 kids, consisting of two girls and a boy, all roughly close to my own age back then.

We spent many summers playing baseball or kickball on our relatively-rural street, hiding from our mean neighbor when our ball accidentally hit his house, and riding our bikes to various swimming holes around town. Just kidding about the swimming holes part, this wasn't 1950. We actually swam in a pool.

But I digress.

One afternoon, I went over to the Henderson's, and the boy, I'll call him Timmy, answered the door. I asked if they wanted to play basketball. Timmy said that he would be right out but that his sisters were busy cleaning his room that day. Confused, I asked him why he wasn't cleaning his own room and, in my direct 12-year-old way, suggested that he might be lazy.

Reflecting back, Timmy himself seemed confused as to why I would be confused about why his parents were making Timmy's female siblings clean his room for him while he got to sit around and watch Full House. I remember him huffily retorting, "I'm not lazy! I play sports and stuff!"

I've thought about that interaction from time to time, especially when noting larger patterns of the phenomenon whereby work is often perceived as Very Valued And Important if it is done by a man or boy, but it's dismissed and undervalued if it's done by a woman or girl.

Over at Salon, Soraya Chemaly has noted some studies showing that even young girls do more housework than young boys, with boys getting more hours of play and more money for chores when they do them. One of the studies linked to (PDF) notes, "...girls spend more time doing housework than they do playing, while boys spend 30 percent less time doing household chores than girls and more than twice as much playing."

I've been thinking about and debating gender stuff for long enough that I could do a re-cap of the comments without even actually reading the comments. Let me guess. Maybe some folks might chalk these disparities up to inherent and essential differences in "interest" between boys and girls, as though it's a defining feature of girls to just want to do chores rather than play, and that it's a defining feature of boys to want to play rather than do chores.

And, wait wait, maybe somebody's saying that efforts to maybe make boys do more housework and allow girls to play sports more frequently would be "social engineering" that goes against each gender's very nature and blah blah blah. I bet some people in the comments were even noting that the work that little boys do just is more valuable and more dangerous and harder and whatnot than the simple, menial tasks that little girls do! And whatever, little girls just want to take time off to take care of their dolls, so. Boom! It's all settled! The wage gap in kids' allowances is just a logical, foregone, unalterable biological conclusion.

My overarching point here is that I think these findings are mostly sad.

People seem really quick to look to "biology" and "inherent gender differences" to explain away disparities to then justify segregating work by gender, and to justify women and girls' work being devalued and taken for granted.

It can be illuminating, though, to juxtapose the Salon piece with yesterday's post, which quoted a Christian pastor boasting about how he was indoctrinating his daughters to be entirely dependent on men. I mean, dude has to try, like work really hard, to teach his girl children how to be suitably dependent, servile, submissive, and (purportedly) feminine. He has to teach them that, because deep down he knows they don't come out of the womb knowing how to be authentic girls, although if pressed he'd likely blame any gender non-conformity on feminist propaganda.

We are to believe that traditional gender indoctrination doesn't happen and that these so-called feminine traits are inherent to girls and women, indeed vital and essential to their very beings as girls, and yet at the same unattainable to them without the proper education. And, if we do not accept this belief as 100% True Common Sense, gender traditionalists mock us as unreasonable, irrational, politically correct feminazis who don't understand the Truths about gender.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Quote of the Day

[Content note: misogyny]

Via Echidne, linking to the words of Christian pastor Steven Anderson:
"'I’m gonna tell you this: It’s not gonna be humanly possible for anyone to commit fornication with my daughters. [Laughter] And you know what? You’re laughing but I’m not kidding… You say, what about when they go get a job? Well, they’re not going to get a job. Why would my daughters go get a job? What do they need a job for? You know what, I’m gonna pay for them, I’m gonna pay their bills. And you know what? When I’m done paying for them, their husband’s gonna pay for them.'"
It's interesting because, well, conservative Christians usually tend to express an opposition toward the exchange of sex and childbearing for resources and money.

It seems as though at least some of them make an important distinction between coercing sex work upon their daughters for religious reasons (acceptable) and having their daughters choose sex work for themselves without explicit parental coercion for non-religious reasons (not acceptable).

Makes..... sense?

In Right-Wing Women, Andrea Dworkin noted that many right-wing women are drawn to conservatism because "traditional marriage" meant selling sex to one man, rather than to the hundreds purportedly demanded by the liberal, male-centric sexual revolution, and that they therefore saw traditionalism as "the better deal."

Although, she noted, both liberalism and conservatism treated women like they existed in states of perpetual consent to sex, and neither offered women full autonomy.

Dworkin was writing in 1983, but even today I tend not to get too caught up in liberal versus conservative identity politics in the US, as I am largely repulsed by the male-centric and anti-feminist tendencies within both political movements.

Too often, men in both movements decry misogyny only insofar as they can score political points against "guys on the other side," without actually taking meaningful measures to address it because addressing it is a good in its own right.  Too often, some of the few things men in both movements agree upon is that feminism is sucky, man-hating, and completely unnecessary these days.

Suffice it to say that, yes, I do get anxious when liberals and conservatives start patting themselves on the back for having purportedly "new conversations" together, among themselves, about marriage - especially when these conversations are largely devoid of feminist input.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another One for the History Books

I saw this quote highlighted over at G-A-Y.

It was uttered by Matt Barber, Associate Dean at Liberty University School of Law and former Policy Director of the Concerned Women for America (ha, of course, get back in the kitchen, wimmenz!):
"Those of us who wish to remain obedient to God will not – indeed, cannot – accommodate you and play along with your sin-centric 'gay marriage' delusion.

Ain’t gonna happen.


Look, you have every right to dress up in two wedding gowns or two tuxedos, get pretend 'married' and play house to your hearts’ content. You do not have the right, however, to force others to abandon their sincerely held religious beliefs, thousands of years of history and the immutable reality of human biology to engage your little fantasy. No amount of hand-wringing, gnashing of teeth, suing Christians or filing charges against those of us who live in marriage reality will make us recognize your silly so-called 'marriage equality.'”
This quote can go in the chapter I hope is called, "Yep, pretty sure anti-gay bigotry really was a real thing that really motivated laws against same-sex marriage!"

Or maybe that's too wordy.

In any event, again, as a non-Christian, I find it somewhat entertaining in a "wow, dude's massively projecting" kind of way, to be accused of engaging in make-believe by an avowed Christian who Just Knows Things from his definitely-not-made-up religion.

Not sorry but when "god" starts to look just like Matt Barber, that's probably not a great PR campaign for Christianity.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I Have to Admit

I did laugh a little when I initially read this story of bigotry gone awry, but only because the family was ultimately safe in the end. It would have actually been tragic had the family been lost at sea indefinitely.

To summarize, a family fled the US on a sailboat because they "don't believe in" "abortion, homosexuality, or the state-controlled church." The strategy for their get-away mostly seems to have involved hopping on a small boat in San Diego, letting Jesus take the wheel, and hoping they'd end up in Kiribati, a remote group of islands in the Pacific between Hawaii and Australia.

Turns out, they ran into some storms and ended up lost for weeks "in the middle of nowhere," until they were  ultimately rescued by a fishing boat and eventually returned to the US courtesy of the government from which they had been hoping to escape.

Anyway, my points here are that, first of all, I had to look up on Snopes whether this story was a real thing that happened in the real world (it seems legit!). Secondly, I'm not sure it's even coherent to "not believe in" things that actually exist in the world, such as abortion and homosexuality. And finally, I don't blame the Homosexual Agenda, feminists, or the US government one bit for this family's predicament or desire to flee.

Rather, I blame all those oogedy-boogedy voices that repeatedly tell those who belong to the largest, most powerful, and most prominent religion in the US that they are oppressed, persecuted, and under attack by the Feminazi Homosexualist Agenda that apparently rules the entire world, except for Kiribati, and are therefore in imminent danger of becoming martyrs. (Although, that danger seems less a  realistic danger, and more a hopeful fantasy for some Christians, as it would allow them to fulfill a Christian Persecution narrative?)

The family, according to the above-cited article, is currently coming up with a "new plan."  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another Conservative Applauds Russian Anti-Gay Law

This time, it's Patrick Buchanan, over at The American Conservative, where he wistfully longs for the days of ye olde, when "homosexual sodomy" was outlawed and same-sex marriage was "an absurdity."

No, really, in addition to saying the regular uninspired shit about "homosexual propaganda" and blah blah blah, he says:
"Only yesterday, homosexual sodomy, which Thomas Jefferson said should be treated like rape, was outlawed in many states and same-sex marriage was regarded as an absurdity. 
Was that America we grew up in really like Nazi Germany?"

Okay, totally awkward sentence construction, but is a decade ago, when Lawrence v. Texas declared sodomy laws unconstitutional, really only "yesterday"? Or is "yesterday" Thomas Jefferson's super special homo-hatin' days? And is Pat privy to a DeLorean and flux capacitor and running a secret operation to ship True Patriots to the future where he can write about them in the first person? (And this is what he uses time travel on? Bemoaning the homosexual agenda? This is why we can't have nice things.)

Later on down, he says:
"We can no longer even agree on what is good and evil."
"No longer"? Because you see, historically, there's been mass agreement about what constitutes good and evil in the world. Definitely no disagreements there until very recently!  Political correctness run amok and whatnot.

I mean, what? This guy.

First and foremost, Buchanan's, um, interesting post reminds me that in addition to being Accomplished Grade-A Gaslighters, many American conservatives are myth-makers who mix up (myxth?) their utopian fantasies with stuff that actually happened in the past.

And, contrary to popular "we're not bigots" mythology, the way some conservatives speak so approvingly of Russia's laws, it seems to be unspoken common knowledge that many opponents of LGBT equality in the US actually would have no problem with both "homosexual sodomy" and pro-gay speech being criminalized here. These "culture wars" are about far more than anti-LGBT Christians supposedly "protecting" their own religious liberties.

And just as a final note, it really strikes me as mostly sad when conservatives get down with their bad selves by still invoking President Obama's middle name, as Buchanan does as the grand finale to his ridiculous piece. That dog whistle is so 2008.

Today In Definitely-Not-Bigotry

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Not Being the Jerk Whisperer

About 7 months ago, I wrote this post, about the general theme of forgiveness.

In that post and the conversations that ensued, I noted that while it may be easy to utter simple platitudes about the power and benefits of forgiveness, in practice forgiving those who un-apologetically and un-remorsefully abuse us can, in some instances, only embolden people to continue acting abusively.

I think about that in the context of blogging and Internet civility, especially as a feminist blogger. You may or may not have noticed, you see, that I got a bit Fed Up with mansplainers the other day in the comments.

When men consistently show up and declare things to be not sexist just because they've thought about sexism against women for 2 seconds and they say so!, when commenters gaslight my (and other women's) lived experiences and hand-waive them away, when they refuse to listen, when they refuse to fairly and accurately summarize feminist arguments, when they condescend and assume they have lots to teach the feminists here about stuff, and do all of these things time and time again.... I see less and less value in granting automatic forgiveness to strangers on Internet Just Because It's The Right Thing To Do.

I'd go as far as saying that I see less and less value in Promoting Civil Dialogue and Trying To Build Bridges at all with some anti-feminists and anti-LGBT folks when doing so has so often meant being on the receiving end of varying levels of hostility, ranging from microaggressions to full-on rape-threat aggressions, as a condition for the dialogue to even take place.

For instance, setting boundaries is often interpreted as bitchiness or, conversely, over-sensitivity.  Setting boundaries is not an acceptable act for women to engage in, according to some people, who "politely" refuse to, say, discontinue commenting in forums from which they've been banned due to their continued hostility.

Having conversations with people who believe that men and women are fundamentally, essentially "opposites" necessitates being confronted with that same person's veiled and explicit sexist assumptions about my (in)capabilities as a woman compared to men, just waiting for the right context for these views to come out.

Having private email correspondences with anti-gay bigots has, oftentimes, entailed them trying to bait me into assuring them over and over and over again that I think they're sufficiently nice and Not At All Bigoted for opposing my full equality in society.

Participating in conversations as a resident lesbian, in blogs I've been specifically invited to participate in as a resident lesbian, has sometimes meant me being resented by the invitee when, spoiler alert, I ask not to be on the receiving end of certain types of hostility for being a resident lesbian.

When MRAs have shown up here, it's often been a take take take conversation where men have gone to great lengths to catch feminists in various "gotchas" and Sins of Hypocrisy, even as they let other MRAs and anti-feminists entirely off the hook for similar, worse, and far more aggressive behavior.

And, while men who promote civility in blogging and public discourse are often widely praised, complimented, and lauded for doing so, promoting civility while being a feminist woman has often been interpreted as me "scolding" people, trying to "feminize" public discourse, taking on a "listen to mother tone," and being overly self-righteous and too politically correct.

So, I guess my point here is that these conversations, especially when they happen over again, have a cost and take their toll.  I know some people might be thinking oh woe is me blah blah blah, but burnout is a real thing that many people cite as a reason to stop blogging altogether.

I'm not at that point. (So the bigots and anti-feminists reading this can just cork that champagne right back up!)

Earlier this week, I read the presentation that Melissa McEwan gave at the Forging Justice conference. What she said, below, stuck with me, as a blogger, and probably isn't a big surprise to those of you who read my blog regularly. She says:
I was speaking to Flavia Dzodan the other day about the personal cost of doing this kind of work, and burn-out, and having to fight the same fights over and over, and I said to her that I started blogging with the belief that maybe I could help change the world, and now, nine years later, I blog with the thought that I'm giving people a place and the tools to process living in a world that is hostile and doesn't feel very changeable a lot of the time. And that feels like an okay goal.
Yes, right now I'm at a place of mindfulness in which I recognize that I used to be a bit idealistic, or maybe hopeful, that if I was just nice enough, just civil enough, that if I moderated myself enough, and that if I really walked the walk or gave a sincere effort to do so, that something cool and important could happen in terms of dialogue and understanding, especially in more mixed-company forums and at blogs run by those with widely different opinions than myself.

The more civil I've tried to be, though, the more of a doormat I've often felt.

Because no matter how civil I've been or tried to be, some people are and always will be hell-bent on assigning bad faith motives to others, being jerks, or just itching for a fight or way to unleash aggression.

It turns out that when we build bridges to jerks, guess where those bridges take us? Spoiler alert: to jerks!  When we "cultivate a community" with jerks, guess who's in that community? Jerks! Acting jerky!

I'm not advocating for wanton incivility here or a mass participation in reciprocal jerkiness, and I actually am interested in Internet projects that take civility seriously. I'm just noting that I'm at a place where I see a great value in, for me, setting jerk boundaries.  Boundaries are gooooooood.  Boundaries, many times, trump bridge-building. Boundaries can create safer spaces.  We don't all have to go skipping along together amongst the daffodils, and that's okay!

In related and more positive news, it looks like the single-issue, anti-equality, anti-LGBT group blog Opine Editorials is now defunct, with the entire blog, all posts, and all comments having been deleted. It is an interesting move to just up and delete an entire blog, especially since it's existed at least as long as my own blog (more than 6 years).

To me, that move suggests shame or perhaps a wish to erase the historical record now that marriage equality is more of a winning proposition these days, despite the bloggers' absurd and regular declarations of victory over various debate opponents.

Regardless, the defunct nature of the blog is a win. Any day those jerks aren't contributing to the public discourse about LGBT people is a good day, in my opinion!

On the downside, will we never get a finale to Tales From Definintely-Not-Bigotland? *wipes away tear*

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NOM Slides Down the Slope

The National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) has run a somewhat snarky post on their agency blog about a recent Salon piece that featured three consenting adults in a polyamorous union.

The post generally falls into the "Seeeeeeeee, we told you so!" category of anti-same-sex-marriage advocacy, in which opponents of equality take one instance of something that's been going on for thousands of years and act like it's a Startling New Trend Brought About By Same-Sex Marriage.

It's like we're expected to believe that the legal process is so shallow and so simple that a movement to secure rights for polyamorous relationships would not be expected to win on its own substantive merits in courts, but rather would magically be able to piggyback entirely on the exact same reasoning as same-sex marriage.

And once that happens, of course, we've paved the way to bestiality! Because new lines have never been drawn around marriage before and drawing new lines around something means abandoning all lines altogether! And you see, this is what happens!

What NOM seems to fail to realize is that it's that notion that many people scoff at. Which, I think, is maybe a reflection of that agency's own shallow, surface-level rhetorical style and propaganda.

Just as a style note, the NOM post doesn't currently link to the Salon article (it can be found here, though), and the post's formatting awkwardly suggests that the NOM author's writing comes from the Salon piece. Nonetheless, the "NOM Staff" poster writes:
"The author uses her 9-year-old daughter to deflect criticism. Her daughter dutifully and understandably repeats the adult arguments for same-sex marriage and applies them to her family. 
...Because 'love makes a marriage' now. And to say otherwise means you’re a hater." 
Well, no. Not necessarily.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are and were called "haters" not for a "mere" opposition to the idea that "love makes a marriage." They've been called haters because of many advocates' opposition to equality plus their extensive, widely-documented history of perpetuating hatred and bigotry against gay people.

If NOM wants to seriously deny that history, I can post evidence all day.

I'll end here by noting that I support the extension of protections to additional family units, and that I have mixed thoughts about marriage as the be-all, recognized family structure in the US. I'm not aware of mass numbers of people in polyamorous relationships seeking marriage, or of any coordinated large effort for that to gain traction, however.

I know that even mentioning that one might support protections expanded family structures is an "admission" that anti-equality adovcates love to play the "Seeeeeee, we told you so" game with, which is weird because they're usually the same folks who are all about supposedly protecting families.

But, I think that conversation reveals just how narrowly many traditionalists view the concept of family and how they often view marriage as an institution to coerce men into marrying the mothers of their children, and to coerce those who procreate together to raise their children together no matter what.

Beyond that, marriage as a useful institution, and even basic protections, for other family structures seems to be, to them, meaningless and pointless. Other family types seemingly have no place at all in the ideal society of many traditionalists and may as well, to them, not even exist.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Today in Definitely-Not-Bigotry

[Content note: anti-gay violence]
"For any but the most rabidly liberal, the decision of Russian lawmakers is about as sensible as it gets."  
-Sylvia Thompson, a self-described "black conservative whose aim is to counter the liberal spin on issues pertaining to race and culture," in an article praising Russia's anti-gay laws
The Russian law she is referencing punishes "propaganda of homosexualism among minors," and its text in English can be read here. As you can see, the law itself is incredibly vague, but its Explanatory Note speaks of "protecting children from the effects of homosexuality propaganda."

This tactic, of course, is one that anti-equality advocates in the US have long engaged in, from Anita Bryant to the National Organization for Marriage's ridiculous and infamous "Gathering Storm" ad during the original Prop 8 campaign. The Russian law takes this tactic a step further, by just outright imposing a punishment on pro-gay speech. And, notorious American anti-gay advocate, and Holocaust revisionist, Scott Lively has taken some of the credit for this law being passed in Russia.

Interesting to note about Sylvia Thompson's quote, though, is the way she implicitly characterizes moderates and conservatives. To her, it is only the most "rabidly liberal" person who would oppose this anti-gay infringement on free speech. To her, it seems a given that moderates and conservatives would applaud the law and find it sensible, perhaps even worthy of emulating here in the US.

It's interesting because supposedly it's the Mean Homosexualists who are hell-bent on unfairly calling equality opponents bigots and haters. Yet, if we accept that supporters of this law are supporting a bigoted law, a proposition I certainly accept, then Thompson is basically admitting that people who hold bigoted opinions about gay people are, actually, quite numerous. That is, the people who think homosexuality and gay people are a threat to children, and who want us to basically shut up and go away, are all but a handful of liberal extremists.

Last year, Moscow banned also gay pride parades for the next 100 years. I'm sure that's a move some (many?) moderates and conservatives would applaud as well.

Also doing their part to, ahem, "protect the children" is a group of violent, anti-gay bigots who are alleged to post fake ads on dating sites to lure gay teens to them so they can then torture the teens. The group then proudly posts pictures of them on social networking sites posing with their victims.

I'm *sure* that sort of anti-gay violence all happens in a vacuum, though.

Perhaps the biggest failing of anti-gay movements in the US is the nearly complete failures of all of those purportedly So Nice and Civil "marriage defenders" and traditionalists to condemn the rhetoric of their more overtly anti-gay peers and to condemn horrendous laws that their peers applaud.

When people who dedicate their livelihoods and blog presences to opposing the gay agenda, whilst protesting too much that they aren't bigots, can't take a few minutes of their day to publicly and explicitly condemn Russia's law, or Uganda's Kill the Gays bill, I think it would be foolish to give such folks a "charitable" benefit of the doubt that they disagree with such laws.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Fun and Football

Welp, this article on being a sports fan while also being a woman is good.

Stacey May Fowles takes on the lazy, general assumption that the default sports fan is a man, and that women are drawn to watch sports for other reasons, like ogling cute guys, pleasing their boyfriends, and drinking. Sports writers and ad creators consistently fail to imagine that actual women exist who actually attend games because they actually like to watch sports.

Fowles writes:
"I certainly don’t deny that some people go to games simply to drink and people watch, nor do I deny that some of those people are women (or think anything is wrong with that). What is important here is the emphasis we put on female ignorance and disinterest when we talk about female baseball fandom, and the way we exclude women from the larger conversation as a result. There is vast diversity to the common fan’s personal experience of the game, regardless of gender, and like anything, any stereotypes that we reinforce only harm the overall community. It surely couldn’t have been hard for Maloney to find a quotable female fan who could talk complex stats with him, or who even had more than a passing interest in the game, but instead he chose to focus solely on expectations already supported by the status quo. 
Men come to the ballpark with an assumed knowledge and interest, whereas women need to be constantly demonstrating how much they know and care."
I've written before on my ambivalent relationship with men's professional sports.

I certainly don't have favorite teams that Must Win! or else I'll get a big sad, and I don't even understand what compels people to so identify with teams they aren't on that they say things like, "We won!" No judgments there, I just really don't get it.  And, I've been on lots of sports teams in my life, so it's not like I don't understand the concept of Team Sports.

Anyway, there is lots to criticize about men's sports at both the professional and collegiate levels (and I've done so here many times), but when looking solely at the games themselves in terms of strategy and athletics, I enjoy watching baseball and football (but not hockey or basketball). And, I also enjoy watching women's softball and football (but not hockey or basketball).

I've also been playing fantasy sports for the past 5 years or so, either rounding up friends to be in my leagues, or joining leagues with complete strangers. One time, I created a public league, somewhat nervous about hostile, anonymous strangers possibly joining it, but it filled up in last than half a day with the majority of team owners being other women.

It's been entertaining, mostly from the standpoint of looking at statistics and making managerial decisions.

Readers, are you sports fans?  I'm gauging interest in people who might be interested in playing fantasy (NFL) football. If you are, leave a comment or send me an email, with your email address and I'll send you an invite to a feminist, friendly league!

In other news, here's a recent picture of Geena Davis doing archery in her uniform from A League of Their Own.  You know, like she does.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Quote of the Day

"It was only when I began expressing my solidarity with women in the Church, that I recognized how deeply sexism and power permeate the priesthood. Somehow we have lost our way, forgotten the teachings of Jesus, and evolved into a very powerful and privileged clerical culture. It saddens me that so many of my fellow priests see women as a threat to their power. As men, we claim that we, and we alone, can interpret the Holy Scriptures and know the will of God. We profess that men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, but as men we have created God in our own image. And this God is very small, very male, and sees women as the lesser of men."
That one's from Roy Bourgeois, writing in the Religion Dispatches of his experience being a Catholic priest and social justice activist for 40 years.

In November 2012, the Vatican removed Bourgeois from his spiritual community and the priesthood for failing to recant his support for the ordination of women, which the Vatican considers a "grave scandal."

His observations about the Vatican's male supremacy and the creation of god in the image of fallible men are ones, of course, women have made for years. It still something, though, when men break ranks with the class of Sacred Men in furtherance of eradicating men's unearned privilege and entitlement to think of themselves as somehow closer to god and "his" will, compared to women.

The comment section over at Religion Dispatches is interesting, too, especially from my perspective as one who, unlike many of the debate participants, does not accept fundamental premises of Christianity or recognize their version of "god" as authoritative or true.  To me, it's like watching people debate about whether The Watcher's Council should allow men to be vampire slayers, except the debate participants think they're talking about reality rather than fiction.

Not a Christian, But
Not a Christian, But (Part Two)
Book Review: A Church of Her Own

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Newsflash: Anti-feminists are SO Original and Creative!

Therese O'Neill has put together an article showing historical posters dedicated to advocating against women's right to vote.

As she notes, because the position against equality was so weak, many of these posters used mean-spirited "humor" to demean women who sought the right to vote as being overly masculine, witch-like and deserving of death/torture, inauthentic women, old maids, ugly, unlovable, and ball-busting emasculating scolds.

In other words, anti-suffragettes had their versions of Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson too.

It is pathetic that so many anti-feminists still use these approaches to try to discredit feminist women today. Whenever I see men making arguments like "feminists are ugly har har har" or "conservative women are total babes, unlike feminists" it tells me I'm dealing with a guy who has, essentially, already dismissed any substantive argument I have made.

For, his comment indicates that he thinks a woman's very most important trait is how she looks. That's why calling a woman ugly is supposed to "sting" so much. If a woman's worth is measured mostly by how she looks, and he can just dismiss her as ugly, he doesn't have to address anything she says because both she and her arguments are already worthless.  He can call her ugly and then wipe his hands of the whole argument whilst declaring himself the authority and the victor!

Then, he reckons, if he proceeds to call all feminists ugly, he thinks he can then dismiss the whole entirety of feminism as worthless and believe that that dismissal is thought of by everyone else as some sort of objective truth about feminism and the world!

And then everyone can just move on to more important things. The men are speaking. STFU ladies.

But seriously, I'm pretty sure I know how anti-feminist assholes think far better than they know how we think. And, welp, there's a big incongruity between the way most anti-feminists think of women, and the way that I think of myself and other women.

So it's not, like, super insulting to me when anti-feminists call feminists as a whole ugly, because I recognize the tactic for what it is. It's more frustrating that they won't, don't, or can't just focus on substantive issues. They have to be all aggressive and assholey and rape threat-y about it all, which I guess is not only a nice distraction for them but also a convenient silencing tactic as well.

For instance, suddenly the anti-suffragette posters aren't really talking about women's suffrage. They're attempting to withhold authentic womanhood from women they've deemed bad and out of line. They're basically depictions of white male insecurity about the impending decrease in privilege that the extension of legal rights to more people represents.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Trolls," Online Civility and Political Agendas

In line with my ongoing interest in Internet civility (and the lack thereof), I've recently read the following articles - mostly about online misogyny.

At Jezebel, Lindy West aptly addresses the myth that Both Sides Are Just As Bad. "Both sides" here being women/feminists versus misogynists/anti-feminists. She writes:
"Broadly speaking, the type of violent, choreographed, overwhelming hate speech currently battering Creasy and Criado-Perez is directly aligned with our male-supremacist power structure (race is a deeply salient factor too, and unpacking that deserves its own article). I'm trying to think of an instance when anonymous women descended, spewing violent rape or castration threats, upon a man for expressing an opinion as innocuous as Criado-Perez's. I can think of instances of funny, political, retaliatory trolling—like when Twitter feminists co-opted the #INeedMasculismBecause hashtag, or when Rick Perry's Facebook page was deluged with questions about menses. But those are not examples of aggression, they are self-defense. They are not analogous to "I will rape you in an alley" or "Don't leave your phone at home, sweetie." They are reactions to misogyny—the same brand of misogyny that fuels internet trolling. They are women speaking to power—the same power structure that empowers and perpetuates anonymous trolls."
I've noted this false moral equation too, previously.

West also talks about the disproportionately positive responses that men often receive for acknowledging misogyny and rape culture when feminist women have been saying similar things for years whilst instead often receiving enormous amounts of aggression. I think that phenomenon puts feminist men and women in an awkward bind. I'm grateful for male allies, but it's also difficult to see feminist observations treated as more valid when they are uttered by men, rather than women.

On the flip side, about a year ago, I read Adrian Chen's article over at Gawker, unmasking a particularly notorious troll abusive Internet user. This particular user was a mass promoter of violence against women, a user of racial slurs, a promoter of anti-Semtism, and an advocate for sexualizing underage girls on Reddit.

Not surprising was his reliance on Reddit's Anything Goes/Free Speech policies, seemingly using those policies to push boundaries Just Because He Could.  Notably, though, the Free Speech Advocate, like so many of them, didn't use his free speech and Internet posting privileges to disparage and celebrate the victimization of white people or men, as a class.

That lends credence to the argument that the real agenda of many Internet abusers isn't the exercise of free speech but, rather, the re-affirmation of a status quo that privileges people like themselves and aims to threaten, demean, and silence everyone else, particularly women. For, even white men likely feel very differently about their precious free speech rights when they, as a group, are maybe on the receiving end of loads of harassment and threats (see also, on Privilege and Fear).

Turns out the guy also had a close behind-the-scenes connection to Reddit administrators, and was himself a moderator.

I mean, what could go wrong, really?

Finally, at Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte notes:
"West is right; it’s time to stop thinking of trolls as idiots who are just seeking attention, and see them for what they are: Misogynists with a political agenda. These are men that absolutely do not want to live in a society where women are treated equally, and they are obsessed with silencing the women online whose writings they rightfully fear are going to help push society in a more feminist direction. They want to harass feminists into silence. If we keep this understanding front and center and discard useless theories about “attention-seeking” or “lulz”, we can begin to have a more productive conversation about what the hell to do about the problem."
Interestingly, the Internet abuser from Reddit noted that he liked to come home from work at night, lay in bed, and post stuff just to get people riled up.  His claim there, however, seemed both more benign than what he was actually doing and inconsistent with his other protestations about free speech and how he was just posting what, in his mind at least, "many people" really thought but can no longer say in our PC Gone Awry culture.

I've said before and I'll re-iterate, for all their talk of free speech values and inclusion, Anything Goes forums are their own hivemind, and they're a hivemind of intimidation, threats, and exclusion. The cultivation of Internet civility is difficult, taking much thought and actual resources.

For instance, Reddit is one of the largest sites on Internet and the company employs 28 people.  Yet according to the Chen article, Reddit relies on about 20,000 volunteers to moderate its forums. Businesses and entities with social media presences could start including moderation costs, or more of them, into their budget line items.

Of course, that might imply that civility is an important goal for social media presences, rather than recognition, page views, and ad revenue.

On Avoiding the Comments
Online Game Tries Tribunal to Increase Civility

Monday, August 5, 2013

Some Minnesotans Have a Sad About Marriage Equality

“I can’t say we’re bitter. We’re disappointed. It’s people saying, ‘If it’s good for me, I don’t care about anyone else.’ There’s nothing that’s intrinsically evil anymore.”  
This quote's from an article entitled "Some Minnesotans are more sad than bitter over gay marriage," posted in the StarTribune, that has gathered and centered the perspectives of some people who are sad about marriage equality.

Womp wooooooooooooomp.

In addition to the state no longer symbolically saying that homosexuality is "intrinsically evil" (quite an admission there, isn't it?) to some of these citizens this law signals a "deteriorating society," a "disintegrating" "moral compass," and a devaluation of the word "love." One opponent noted that she has "homosexual friends" and that she'll just have to keep on waiting for them to appear willing to listen, to just really listen with an "open heart," to her beliefs about homosexuality being immoral and eventually..... magically not be gay anymore?

Another opponent claimed that with all the texting that happens nowadays:
“There’s no deep thinking anymore. No way to sit down and fully think through an issue.”
I was unaware that the entire campaign in Minnesota, as well as the related DOMA and Prop 8 Supreme Court cases, were conducted entirely by text message.

And, what is it that gives some equality opponents the biggest sad of all? From the article:
"What hurts them most about seeing society change around them? Being called bigots, they said. Feeling forced to accept something they believe is wrong."
Of course.

I like to call this the argumentum ad "I will call you and your lifestyle a symbol of the apocalypse and you must like me for it! 'cuz if you don't, you're SO mean!"

It's silly, really.  Being an actual gay person, I can understand why same-sex couples and queer people would be sad if a marriage equality measure did not pass in their state - you know, given that the denial actually impacts their actual lives.  But, what does it mean to be So Sad that one has "lost" a "right" to deny other people marriage?

To me, it seems as though some equality opponents are sad about marriage equality measures passing because it means they've kind of symbolically flipped positions with gay people in the eyes of the state and, perhaps, the majority of Americans in terms of morality.

Some opponents of equality (and many LGBT people and allies) view a state's failure to recognize same-sex marriage as the state suggesting that homosexuality is immoral (or, say, "intrinsically evil"), a state's recognition of marriage equality might suggest that to oppose homosexuality is, at the least, immoral and no longer socially condoned. Opposing marriage equality, and uttering the opinion that homosexuality is "evil" or "immoral," becomes less and less a thing that is said in polite company.

What some opponents of equality are really sad about, it seems, is that - the marginalization of their homobigoted views. They are free to express their opinions, of course, despite the false cries of "censorship" and so forth. However, they can no longer express their opinion about homosexuality and same-sex marriage whilst still receiving widespread assurance that the state, the legal system, and most people agree with them and think their position is nice, commonsensical, and true.

In more exciting news, lots of other people were happy about marriage equality in Minnesota. (And you can always count on lesbians to show up to a wedding in tie-dye!)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Very Important RSS Feed Update

Welp, Google Reader went away on July 1st and, since then, I've been having difficulties staying abreast of the blogosphere. (It's sooooo hard to click on my blogroll. I need my subscriptions delivered to me automatically, in one convenient location!).

I had decided to switch to The Old Reader, as it seemed like it was going to be a similar interface, so I was all set with that after having transferred over all my subscrptions from Google Reader. But alas, after a month of using The Old Reader, it's been way too glitchy for my liking in terms of articles not loading and not being marked as read after I've read them.

Yes, this is a total "First World Problem," but reading blogs is what helps me stay connected.

So, I've now made the switch over to Feedly, which has been fine. As a bonus, during the switch-over process I also decided it was a good time to clean out my subscriptions, add new ones, and get rid of feeds that no longer provide content.

I've also included a few more, erm, "provocative" (read: conservative, anti-gay) blogs like the NOMblog on my subscription list.  If I read the title before the source, my first reaction is to sometimes think I'm reading The Onion, or something. For instance, a recent NOMblog headline was "States With Marriage Amendments Have Fastest Growing Economies."

Yes.... and?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thoughts on Orange is the New Black

So, I've been watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

What do we think, hivemind?

I've been enjoying it, but haven't delved too deeply into thinking critically about it other than that, if there were a Reverse Bechdel Test, it would fail that (ie - does it have two men, who talk to each other, about something other than a woman?) And, I really can think of no other show or movie off the top of my head that would fail such a test, while of course legions exist that fail the original Bechdel Test.

I wonder, then, what many men think, upon watching this show. Do they feel they are on the outside looking in on something they are marginal to, in the way that many women feel while watching male-centric shows? Do they feel like voyeurs? Are they bored? I don't expect a monolithic manswer to this question, I just imagine that many men are maybe not used to seeing such a profoundly woman-centric show in which the women are generally unconcerned with men, at least when the men in power are not harassing them.

Of course, the vast majority of the female characters in Orange are in a women's prison, so.  Is that progress? I'm not sure. Maybe, to some folks, the fact that the women are imprisoned makes a woman-centric show safe and acceptable. Like, the women are neatly contained and subdued, with men (mostly) in charge of them, so watch away! Although, I'm sure other aspects of the show - like the lesbian sex - causes other folks to fall ass over heels onto their fainting couches condemning the explicit(!) and shocking(!) nature of it while they nonetheless peek through their fingers.

My reading of most of the characters, though, is that I see them as human and feel sympathy for them, even though they're in a class- criminals- that we're largely trained to feel unsympathetic toward.  This feeling, for me, is true even of the male guards, including - very fleetingly - that Evil Pornstache guy.

I like the diversity of the cast, in terms of race, sexual orientation, appearance, "conventional" beauty, class, gender presentation, and body size. Along similar lines as the Bechdel Test, the cast includes multiple people of color and they talk to each other about stuff other than white people, at one point even explicitly referencing and making fun of the Black Best Friend trope.

It also seems important that the show portrays a transgender woman in prison and what that experience can sometimes be like in terms of harassment and accessing medication. To have that character be played by an actual trans woman is nearly unheard of.

I also know that Alex Vause gets lots of attention for being a hot lesbian character, but I'm loving Natasha Lyonne's portrayal of Nichols.  Although, I'm admittedly biased toward Lyonne because of But I'm A Cheerleader, the movie she stars in that mocks ridiculous "conversion therapy" for gay people.

Who else is watching this?