Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Marriage, Equality, and Segregation Part I

In the lexicon of the same-sex marriage debate, those who favor extending legal marriage to same-sex couples generally use the phrase marriage equality to represent legal marriage for same-sex couples. Yet, in one of the more bizarre arguments against marriage equality, internet "marriage defender" On Lawn uses the phrase to mean something else entirely. On his blog, which he runs with several other doods imbued with "marriage defense" monomania, On Lawn uses the phrase "marriage equality" to mean only man-woman marriage, or, as he puts it: "the expectation of equal participation of each gender in each marriage."

This "stealing back" of pro-equality language is reminiscent of anti-gay Christians who seek to "reclaim" the rainbow. Ultimately, these linguistic battles, like the bigger one about the word "marriage," are about symbols, who "owns" them, and who gets to say how others do and do not use them. Whereas "marriage defenders" want marriage to mean one thing and one thing only for all people everywhere, marriage equality advocates generally want society to acknowledge the reality that marriage means different things to different people. Yet, in On Lawn's case, while he couches his concept of marriage in an appealing word like "equality," it is actually the anti-thesis of equality.

To explore this further, let's observe how he takes his "marriage equality" argument to an absurd extension. Based on his belief that marriage requires "equal participation of each gender," he concludes that a same-sex marriage is just like a racially-segregated school, because in both institutions segregation is occurring. Men who marry other men, he claims, are discriminatory just like how whites who attend whites-only schools are. In his own words:

"Just as school integration is meant to re-enforce racial equality, this integration program re-enforces gender equality. This program, of course, is marriage.

Racial equality would take a step backwards if we try to set up all-white schools with the same recognition as integrated schools.... Is establishing gender segregation (as the same choice as integration) a step forwards or a step backwards? Its clearly a step backwards. Its digress, not progress."

And, more blatantly:

"An all-male marriage is a pollution of equality much like an all-white school is a pollution of equality. I support [a gay person's] freedom of association, but to call your relationship (which is intolerant of the other gender) a marriage is simply to deny marriage its capacity to ensure equal recognition of rights for all involved in how we birth and raise children.

Children deserve a mother and father. They deserve primarily their real mother and father preparing even before having a child to be loving, mutually tolerant and respecting spouses and care givers for their potential children."

Marriage "re-enforces gender equality"? When I read claims like that I wonder if some "marriage defenders" know anything at all about the history of marriage and, in particular, of that past pesky practice of coverture. Someone who claims that the purpose of man-woman marriage is to "re-enforce gender equality" is about the last person in the world I would trust to give me accurate information about marriage, its history, or equality.

On Lawn's arguments are poor, to be sure. But they are worth addressing as in his desperate reasoning, we see an interesting demonizing of gays. Social conservatives love pitting minorities against each other, and especially after Proposition 8, they really love them some Gays v. Blacks action. Because really, what else is more resonating in this world than conservative, heterosexual, white, non-feminist, anti-gay, married guys opining upon how to best resolve issues of racial and gender inequality? And, when they demonstrate concern about the LGBT rights movement's supposed misappropriation of the black civil rights struggle, it's always like, whoa, thanks for being such consistent allies to progressive causes, fellas.

But I digress.

What is most lacking about On Lawn's analogy is that he doesn't actually give us many dots to connect in his argument. It is very superficial. While a heterosexual marriage, for instance, contains both a man and a woman, he fails to explain in any detail whatsoever how that composition "re-enforces gender equality." I think he is confusing the word "gender" for "sex" and the word "equality" for "representation." Yes, Captain Obvious, a heterosexual marriage contains both a male and female, but please explain in any modicum of specificity how that representation "re-enforces gender equality."

Speaking of those details that are so often alluded to but never actually, well, detailed, let's look at one of the key ideological underpinnings of "marriage defense." Similar to many "marriage defenders," On Lawn's "defense" of marriage is generally grounded in the ideology of so-called "gender complementarity." Variations of this ideology exist, but it is pretty well-summarized in Marilyn Musgrave's (in)famous quote in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment (see also this article for Musgrave's quote and overview of "gender complementarity"):

"The self-evident differences and complementary design of men and women are part of [God's] created order. We were created as male and female and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife, and the two shall become one in the mystical spiritual and physical union we call 'marriage.'"

Musgrave's sentiment has a warm, squishy fuzzy-wuzzy appeal, but her statement reveals its own shortcoming. Namely, other than the fact that (most) boys have a penis and (most) girls have a vagina, it's hardly "self-evident" as to what those "differences" between males and females actually entail.

And, well, adherents of this ideology are usually hard-pressed to identify the specific characteristics that are inherent in all women (or all men) and why or how these psychological and/or physical characteristics could not possibly be represented in those of the "opposite" sex. Nor can they adequately specify what those actual non-anatomical "unique contributions" are that a man brings to marriage and parenthood that a woman could not possibly bring, and vice versa. Nor do they make it clear if all men and all women possess these "unique contributions," or explain what specifically is so inherently good about the man-woman combo that makes that composition necessary in every single marriage and set of parents.

The general assumption seems to be that if there's both a male body and a female body, then That's Good Enough. And if there are one or two or fifty females (or males), then that's Not Enough. To heck with all of those other questions and details. It's all surface details and dichotomous thinking to the "gender complementary" crowd.

For, rather than acknowledging the observed reality that both sex and gender exist along a gradation, and that men and women are similar on most psychological variables, the ideology of "gender complementarity" demands that we shut our eyes and pretend that the nature of man[sic]kind is instead dual and discrete. Disregarding the fact that the relatively high degree of fatherhood involvement is a Western middle-class norm rather than a universal truth for all cultures everywhere, modern-day adherents to the theory of "gender complementarity" demand that all marriages require a husband (oh yes, and a wife) and that all children deserve a father (oh yeah, and a mother too) and that's just How Things Are In The World.

Men and women, they say, are complementary and/or opposites! And many of us know that this is where things gets really interesting. Where men are constructed as strong, active, and inherently fit to lead, women are constructed as Not That. That is, women (while kind, nurturing, and warm) are also weak, passive, and inherently fit to submit. Together, the inherent strengths and weaknesses of men and women combine into a complementary whole. It juts so happens that the "inherent" characteristics of "Man" work to operate as a giant pre-emptive affirmative action program for his (and not hers) domination of the public sphere.

Now, it's not clear what aspects of the gender complementary ideology On Lawn accepts and rejects, as he mostly just repeats over and over again how marriage requires a man and a woman (See above, re: lack of details) or posts links to scientific studies with no commentary of his own as though a study about how boy rats wrinkle their noses differently than girl rats magically proves That On Lawn Is Right About Everything! Generally, one will find that advocates of this theory, like Marilyn Musgrave, just believe it to be so self-evidently true to All People Everywhere that it really merits little discussion, questioning, or analysis. So, among many adherents of this ideology, I am confident that my summary of their theory would not at all be a controversial representation of their beliefs. They would be more likely to say "Yes, and how could you possible think any of this wrong?"

It only becomes controversial when others, such as myself, reveal this ideology for what it is: An ideology of Inherent Male Domination. When confronted with this inconvenient truth, adherents will either (a) unabashedly agree that they are indeed saying that men are inherently superior and fit to dominate women, (b) claim that a critic just doesn't understand the great mysssssssstery of an "equal hierarchical relationship," or (c) accuse the critic of creating a straw argument and then, without addressing the criticism, run from the room in a huff, more appalled that someone just acknowledged him (or her, but probably him) as a sexist than he is at actually being one.

Keeping that in mind, let's explore the extendy fun of "gender complementarity."

As we have seen above, sex difference implies sex hierarchy. The more exaggerated the differences between categories of people, the more exaggerated the hierarchy between these categories of people. Within a simplistic ideology that asserts that All Men Are X, Y, and Z, and All Women Are A, B, and C, "gender complementarists" create a ranking system that looks very "commonsensical" on the surface but that, in reality, leaves no room for individual difference.

Two, the theory gets super interesting when "gender complementarists" extend their ideology beyond the private sphere and into the public sphere as well. Whereas many "gender complementarists" believe that it is of the utmost importance for a marriage to "integrate" the male and female, some demand an almost completely male homosocial atmosphere in the public sphere based on the idea that "Woman's" two roles in life are wife and mother. Men, however, can be husbands, fathers, architects, garbage men, doctors, teachers, convenience store workers, politicians, police officers, oh yeah and head of the household too.

"Equal" sex representation in marriage is of the utmost importance, they say, BUT it is not at all important or even desirable in other areas of life. Some of the most homophobic, anti-feminist men are bizarrely all about the bromance (as long as it's properly channeled of course); so much so that a woman lurking in certain forums can leave with the distinct impression that she has accidentally stumbled upon a metaphorical homosexual bathhouse. So many dicks are vying for other male attention and approval that it's clear who really matters in the public sphere to some dudes.

In short "gender complementarity" is an ideology of male domination and supremacy. "Marriage defense" is just one of its practical applications.

Same-sex marriage inevitably disrupts the theory of innate male supremacy by arguing that marriage does not, after all, require the "integration" of the male and female because male and female, while still different and important categories, are not as different, important, and hierarchical(!) as "common sense" dictates.

It is that idea, more than any other- even the ickiness of the buttsex- that frightens "marriage defense" males more than anything else. Even if many heterosexual marriages these days are quite equitable, same-sex marriage is the single most blatant symbol society can send that marriage does not require hierarchy. As an institution, marriage can exist without framing the individuals of each dyad as better/worse, strong/weak, and dominant/submissive. Rather than perpetuate discrimination, the symbol of same-sex marriage audaciously breaks down sex and gender hierarchy.

That's why, when On Lawn accuses lesbians and gay men of discriminating against those of the other sex, all I can muster up is a "Yes, that's what we 'homosexuals' tend to do when it comes to our intimate, romantic relationships. Annnnnd...?" Discrimination is a scary word because it connotes invidiousness, and I have hunch that that's why On Lawn uses it. However, in order to break up this already-too-long post, I will leave that point of contention for tomorrow- where the theme will be "equivocation" and On Lawn's use of it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is Civility Really Asking "Too Much"?

I came across the following article in the International Journal of Intergroup Relations entitled "For White People, on How to Listen When Race is the Subject," by Beth Roy. Generally, I think it is a well-written, necessary, and important article.

So, before I discuss my point of contention, I think it is necessary for me to preface my disagreement by stating my specific points of agreement with this article. For instance, I agree that we "live in a society situated within troubled forms of power" that is "laced with dehumanizing notions of pathology." I see this, and sometimes experience it, in the way that women, people of color, and LGBT people are branded as non-default, wrong, and/or sick.

I agree with Roy that, because the white experience in the world is thought of as the norm, conversations about race between white people and people of color are necessarily asymmetrical. Because of that, I agree with her that, in discussions about race, white people should meet people of color more than halfway. Anyone who is considered a default human has more to learn and more to hear from those who live their lives as non-default human beings. "Others" already know about the experiences of Default Humans in the world, because these representations are everywhere. They are in our television shows, are music, our textbooks, our "history," our songs, our comics, and they are in our leadership. The experience of the "other" is not. Those who are default have to put effort into experiencing, seeing, and knowing what reality is like for "others."

And, I agree that many white people possess some degree of "white guilt," feel fear about unintentionally coming off as or being "racist," and are resistant to the idea that they personally possess tangible race-based privileges.

I agree with all of that.

Yet, Roy continues:

"Many people of color have already suffered so much emotional pain and worked so hard in the ways I've described just to get to the decision to speak out, that when they do it is often with passion. To be angry in the face of oppression is a courageous and wholly normal thing. Rage is not pathological; it is an expression of the human spirit. How rage is expressed may be problematic. It may be raw, accusatory, judgmental, personalized. It would be helpful to many white listeners if the person feeling anger were willing to speak in a gentler voice. But under the conditions of racism that exist in our society, it is asking too much to insist that those oppressed by racism find and use a non-threatening voice."

At the risk of the rest of the post coming off as overly-preachy and holier-than-thou, I say everything that follows with an acknowledgment of my own personal triggers for anger, which would be heterosexist and anti-feminist bigots. I am so not perfect in being able to always successfully contain my anger, but I do try. So, while I agree that rage is a normal and natural response to oppression, I have to resoundingly disagree that acting out that rage, even verbally, is somehow justified. In fact, I think that arguing that "it is too much to ask" people of color, or any other marginalized group, to contain their rage (a) can backfire, (b) can dehumanize them and (c) condones their failure to remove themselves from the cycle of violence.

One, I know that Roy's article was targeted towards white people who care about racial oppression. I appreciate that, because there are many white people who are trying to think about issues of race in a sincere, thoughtful way. However, there will always be a segment of white-privilege deniers and racists who will condemn the expressed rage of people of color and will then use that rage as an excuse to not actually address the substance of the arguments and experiences of people of color.

To illustrate how the expression of justified anger can backfire on a movement, we can look at the LGBT rights movement. After Proposition 8 passed in California, I think that many in the LGBT community were very hurt that yet another state passed another symbol of our pathological status as "other." The natural reaction to this hurt and misappropriation of power by the heterosexual masses was anger. Rage, even. I found none of it surprising. Anyone with any understanding of humanity would not be surprised by anger as a response to such dehumanization. Emotions are not "wrong." Our anger was justified. "Marriage defenders" took away the right for same-sex couples to marry, not because it has any real impact on their lives or anyone else's, but just because there were more of them and they could.

Yet, in the post-Prop 8 period, many "marriage defenders" were very surprised by what they hyperventilated as the Mobby Rage of the Homosexualist Masses. While I know that they characterized our peaceful protesting and mobilization as nothing short of Domestic Terrorism, I also know that, any time any gay person said something remotely aggressive, "marriage defenders" pointed to the anger of the LGBT community and used it as further evidence that we were pathological, evil, inherently bad, and undeserving of equal rights.

It would have been nice, of course, if "marriage defenders" would have met us (even) halfway in understanding our anger, but that's not a realistic request. Instead, anti-gay bloggers advised us to Just Get Over It and organizations like the monomanic National Organization for Marriage (NOM) built an entire narrative in which the poor heterosexual majority was now being oppressed by the Incredible Power of the Angry McCarthyist Gays.

Two, to justify the expression of rage under the idea that one is just so oppressed that one cannot help but to express anger is to dehumanize a person. It is understandable, justified even, as to why those whom are "other-ized" by society would feel anger. Yet, to say that it is to "expect too much" for such people to not express anger, to not be hostile, and to not speak in a threatening manner is to deny the basic goodness of humans. Animals act on impulse. As humans, we have the capacity for self-reflection, for being aware of what triggers us, and for not acting out anger that we may be feeling. None of us is perfect in this regard, I'm certainly not, but essentially telling people that their aggression is okay because other people did it to them first is a dangerous and unacceptable proposition. It's not about packaging things the right way so as not to "offend" white people, it's about accepting that every human being, no matter how much harm has been done to him or her, has a responsibility to end aggression and violence.

Which brings me to three. While I agree that those who have the privilege of not being viewed as "other" have a duty to meet "others" more than halfway, I do not believe that "others" are justified in expressing rage in problematic ways. As human beings, we all need to acknowledge our capacity for violence, because as humans no one is immune from feeling anger. As such, everyone, no matter how oppressed, has a duty to recognize that and remove her or himself from the cycle of violence. Violence, even verbal aggression, has to stop somewhere, doesn't it? There isn't a single person alive who is, or should be, off the hook for not putting more aggression into the world.

All that being said, I see how some could feel that my criticism lets oppressors off the hook in some way. Perhaps I have focused too much on the wrongdoing of "others," as opposed to the wrongdoing of those who hold power that is inherent in being considered a default human. So let me add that, too often, default humans- whether they are white, heterosexual, male, able-bodied, and/or Christian- point to the reactions of "others" as though it is evidence of inherent pathology rather than evidence of the cycle of violence. It is an unfortunate tendency, but default humans often act as though they are magically outside of the aggression, when the reality is that they are often a key part of it. Whether this act is real or feigned, it helps oppressors maintain the "naturalness" of their own power and legitimacy.

So, I don't think that, at any point, we should forget that those who are not "others" are often the instigators of violence and aggression. As those who hold more power than "others," they have more power to do harm and, through little more than the sheer, brute numbers of them, they often do so in clumsy and reckless ways. Denying their own privileges, they don't understand the concept of cause and effect when it comes to their own actions. Criticizing "others" for having a Victim Mentality (tm), default humans fail to recognize or take responsibility for their own aggression and, in turn, end up convinced that it is they who are victimized by the anger of "others" for no reason at all.

If anything, it all shows us how humans, whether we're "others" or defaults, aren't so different from each other after all.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Elephant in the Dalai Lama's Room

Apparently, the Dalai Lama calls himself a feminist because he "fights for women's rights."

For those unfamiliar with Tibetan Buddhism:

"According to Buddhist belief, the current Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of a past lama who decided to be reborn again to continue his important work, instead of moving on from the wheel of life....After the death of a Dalai Lama it has traditionally been the responsibility of the High Lamas of the Gelugpa Tradition and the Tibetan government to find his reincarnation. The High Lamas search for a boy who was born around the same time as the death of the Dalai Lama."

No word on whether the current "feminist" Dalai Lama will suggest that it's okay for the High Lamas to search for a little girl to ever be Dalai Lama.

Or, perhaps reincarnation transcends matters of "women's rights."

I render this criticism with all due respect to the Dalai Lama. There is no religious/spiritual system that I relate to and appreciate more than Buddhism. Yet, just as some Christians reject the ordination of women because Jesus was a male, it is simply taken as a given that each successive reincarnating lama will take the same male sex as their successor.

One of the many aspects that I appreciate about Buddhism is its emphasis on the essential emptiness of ego. One of the paths to enlightenment, it is said, is the complete transcendence of identification with the personal ego, or the characteristics of self. For that reason, I find it sad and ironic that Tibetan Buddhism remains fixated in the identification of sex/gender as an essential attribute of the Dalai Lama. Buddhism, like all religions, should know better than to fall into the all-too-human trapping of sexist thought and the perpetuation of the idea that males inherently possess higher spiritual capacities than women.

Like religious scholar Rita Gross, who wrote about this in Buddhism After Patriarchy, the male-only Dalai Lama institution is an unfortunate ego-fixation within a religious/spiritual system that promotes egolessness.

Update: The Dalai Lama is open to his successor being a female. Let's hope the boys in charge of selecting the next Dalai Lama, if the institution continues, agree. There's just something so Vaticanny about the process as it stands.

Next up, the Vatican.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Indian Women Get Their Own Lady Train

Due to pervasive and ongoing harassment from men, India has instituted a ladies-only train car.

"Up and down the jostling train, women repeated the same theme: As millions of women have poured into the Indian work force over the last decade, they have met with different obstacles in a tradition-bound, patriarchal culture, but few are more annoying than the basic task of getting to work.

The problems of taunting and harassment, known as eve teasing, are so persistent that in recent months the government has decided to simply remove men altogether. In a pilot program, eight new commuter trains exclusively for female passengers have been introduced in India’s four largest cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta.

The trains are known as Ladies Specials, and on one recent round trip in which a male reporter got permission to board, the women commuting between the industrial town of Palwal and New Delhi were very pleased.

'It’s so nice here,' said a teacher, Kiran Khas, who has commuted by train for 17 years. Ms. Khas said the regular trains were thronged with vegetable sellers, pickpockets, beggars and lots of men. 'Here on this train,' she said, as if describing a miracle, 'you can board anywhere and sit freely.'"

And also, since men are anatomically incapable of closing their legs more than 75 degrees while sitting in public transportation due to their enormously large penises of course, I am certain that studies will find that women on the Lady Train also have substantially more leg room.

Many women living in metropolitan areas in the US will tell you that "eve teasing" is not an India-specific problem. Comparatively, I don't know if it is as pervasive here, but the catcalls, pinching, and harassment are certainly of the same type and spring from the same source of entitlement.

Taking a cue from the angry black woman at Alas, a Blog, when have you experienced street harassment? And, how do you respond to it?

My story? I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit this, but it has only been within the past few years that I first became aware of the fact that, when I passed men on the street who I didn't know, I would lower my eyes and not make eye contact with them. In part, I think this tactic was pre-emptive self-preservation. Without consciously thinking about it, I wanted to take away a strange man's ability to command me to "smile," his ability to make that creepy too-long eye contact following his once-over of my entire body, and his entitlement to offer an unsolicited compliment regarding my eyes, my legs, or my ass.

Sometimes, you just want to go about your day without being made to feel like a bitch for not flirting back with some dude you don't know. And an easy way to make that happen is to just keep one's eyes on the sidewalk. Yet, once I caught myself consciously looking down, I became angry. Looking down is a signal of submission. And, I do think that some men, in a sick power-trippy way, are out to demonstrate their "dominance" by harassing women they don't know and then becoming "offended" when the lady doesn't show the proper degree of deference to his charms. So, my latest strategy is to keep my head up, briefly glance at an approaching man, and then keep looking straight ahead. You know, as if we were all just people.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Demonstration of the Weight of the White Male Voice

So, this may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but listen. Guess what the following prominent political pundits who each have their own television/radio shows and/or best-selling books have in common: Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Arianna Huffington, Rachel Maddow, Greta Van Susteren, and Nancy Grace.

Lady parts and advanced degrees

Guess what Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, Sean Hannity, Al Franken, Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck, and Shepard Smith have in common.

Man parts and high school diplomas or bachelors degrees.

I'm not pointing this out to be an elitist degree snob. After all, I personally prefer reading blogs by a wide variety of authors, over any of the above-mentioned folks, for political commentary. I love me some Rachel Maddow, but I wonder what she would have to say were she an independent blogger.

Anyway, I do actually think pointing out this disparity in education is important for two reasons. One, unlike for men, having an advanced degree appears to be a minimum qualification for a woman to rise to prominence as a pundit or political "personality." I know that some male political pundits, like Bill O'Reilly, do have advanced degrees that are relevant to politics, but aspiring female pundits should be aware of this unspoken requirement for ladies.

Two, some would undoubtedly argue that these white males have risen to prominence based solely on their talent and that a degree is, therefore, irrelevant. I won't deny that each of these men is a successful entertainer, professional "personality," or performer in their own, um, special way. Yet, I think the fact that each of these men is white and male is a testament to an advantage that perhaps not all people have. Namely, the authority that society automatically grants the white male voice.

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Moore, and Sean Hannity are, actually, college drop-outs. Perhaps that explains why they, to varying degrees, perpetuate anti-intellectualism. Many white guys buy into that. Why attend college or graduate school when pretty much the whole world is centered around the white male perspective that is the inherently objective default point of view. This male "objectivity" enables many men to speak with a confidence that can only be worn by those who are constantly told, in varying ways, that their point of view matters because it is the True and Real One.

For instance, think of the last time you heard a man tell a sexist joke. Now, imagine me, a woman, calling him out for that. Then, imagine a man calling the sexist-joke-teller out. When a woman criticizes a man for telling a sexist joke, she's just being a whiny feminist who has no sense of humor. When a man criticizes another man for telling a sexist joke, the man will likely think twice about it. A man, after all, is imbued with the unique power of objectivity and so if he thinks a joke is sexist, it probably is. (This is also why feminist men are important. Nonfeminist men take men more seriously and are more willing to listen to a man's feminist argument because he can't immediately dismiss him as being an ugly man-hating politically-correct feminazi).

Thus, I wonder if it is possible for a woman's voice, no matter how educated and talented the brain behind it, to carry more weight than a man's when speaking about the same topic. Does a woman have to have an advanced degree just to be able to compete with men, even those who are comparatively less educated? Are there any female college drop-outs who have their own television shows? Generally, men take other men more seriously than they take women, especially in matters pertaining to the public sphere. But, do women also take men more seriously? Is this part of the inherent sexism that we all have?

It's a common refrain among Vagina-Employees that women have to work twice as hard as men to receive half the credit. And, that if a man says something that went ignored when a women said it two minutes before, everyone will think "his" idea is the most brilliant thing to have ever been uttered. Those experiences, while perhaps true, are also anecdotal.

Perhaps the privilege of having The Male Voice is most easily observed by looking at some of our most successful political pundits. Isn't it swell when Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Arianna Huffington, Rachel Maddow, Nancy Grace, and Greta Van Susteren collaborate to demonstrate Male Privilege in Action! Girl Power, ya'll!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Existence of "Lesbian" Who Now Has a Boyfriend Single-Handedly Proves that Gayness is a Choice!

It was with a smile that I read Tim Graham's article entitled "Whoops! Lesbian 'Person of the Year' in Gay Press Goes Straight With Baby." I knew immediately where it was going. Break out the balloons and cake, anti-gays, it's time for a "Conversion" Celebration!

Graham writes:

"In December 2005, Kerry Pacer, then 17, was featured on the cover of the national gay news magazine The Advocate as its 'Person of the Year' — making her the youngest gay person to achieve that honor – for fighting for a 'gay-straight alliance' at White County High School in Cleveland, Georgia. But there’s apparently no embarrassment for the gay press....when she takes on a boyfriend and they have a baby"

Those opposed to or ignorant of the LGBT rights movement would undoubtedly- in their clueless, uncreative, and desperate attempts to use someone's life experience against the Gay Agenda- expect gay people to be "embarrassed" about this. Yet, the ignorants and antis are wrong. I am less than impressed for the failure to consider why this would not be embarrassing to the LGBT community. Perhaps some people's Anti-Gay Goggles prevent them from seeing other explanations for why a "lesbian" might now be dating a man.

Before I begin, though, it feels strange to speculate about Pacer's sexuality, considering that I don't know her. I don't care what she is. What matters is that she did good work for the LGBT community when she was a teenager. Thus, I don't think her sexuality is all that relevant to much of anything. Is it some sort of Startling Revelation that heterosexuals can be allies to the LGBT community? Yet, I find it even more creepy that those who aren't particularly sympathetic to LGBT rights are using her life experience to advance an anti-gay agenda or to ridicule and try to "embarrass" gay people.

There is no indication that Pacer is claiming to be "ex-gay" or that she is now dating a man because she has come to some sort of being-gay-is-an-abomination revelation. As she says, she simply fell in love with a man because "you can't help who you fall in love with." Maybe I'm just being logical, but the argument that one can't help who one falls in love with doesn't seem to support the argument that one can, actually, help who one falls in love with. In their zeal to play Gotcha! when it comes to matters of bisexuals, "ex-gays," and former gays, I think that those opposed to LGBT rights actively go out of their way to not find other explanations as to how or why a "lesbian" might now be dating a man.

So, let's help them out. Does the existence of a teenager who used to claim she was a lesbian prove that homosexuality is a choice?


1) Is it possible that she wasn't a lesbian to begin with? Apparently, Pacer came out as a lesbian when she was 12 and, for her work establishing a gay-straight alliance at her high school, was declared The Advocate's person of the year in 2005. I wouldn't be quick to set any teenager's sexuality in stone. While some teenagers know for sure that they are gay (I certainly did), these things can change for some people.

2) You guys, I think there's a word for people who date both women and men. Help me out here. Oh yes, is it possible that she is bisexual?

3) Is it possible that she was a lesbian, but she has chosen not to be one any longer? Well, actually, she sort of stated that she didn't choose either way. In fact, she fell in love with her boyfriend, not because it was a conscious choice, but because she "couldn't help it."

4) Is it possible that just because this "lesbian" (no scaretastic quotes intended, I just don't know how to label her) has fallen in love with a man it therefore means that every single lesbian on the planet can also fall in love with a man?

Possibly. But wouldn't that be an audaciously bold claim to make based on a "study" that included 1 person?

But wait, you say, what about all of those "ex-gays"? Anti-gay blogger Pearl, who can barely contain her excitement about Pacer's new boyfriend, reminds us that she herself has known ex-gays and, in fact, has "stood with hundreds of them, brought together by their shared experience of leaving homosexual behavior and finding freedom."

Okay, Pearl. The plural of anecdote is not "data." See also, above.

The fact that this women is now with a man, diminishes neither her courageous actions when she was a teenager nor her advocacy for the LGBT community. I notice that while Graham and Pearl are busy gloating over Pacer's new "choice" and laughing about how "embarrassing" this all is to the LGBT rights movement, they fail to condemn the abuse she and her friends suffered by those who persecuted and taunted them.

Save the children, indeed!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Worst Supreme Court Case For Women #3: Ex parte Lockwood

Hello citizens and ladies. Today we're going to take a trip back to 1894 as part of my sporadically-running series on Worst Supreme Court Cases For Women. What's fun about these cases is that, even if you went to law school, you likely have never learned about these instances in which the fellows on the US Supreme Court denied women equal rights and generally just said pretty shitty stuff about we Vagina-Americans.

Today's case is Ex parte Lockwood (1894). Like Bradwell v. Illinois, this one involved lawyeress Belva Lockwood, who petitioned a Virginia court to receive a law license only to have that court reject her, not because she was incompetent, but because she had lady parts. Audaciously believing that the 14th Amendment's guarantees applied to her, a lady sort of citizen, she then requested an order from the US Supreme Court requiring the Virginia court to admit her to practice. To support her case, she cited Virginia law:

"Any person duly authorized and practicing as counsel or attorney at law in any state or territory of the United States, or in the District of Columbia, may practice as such in the courts of this state"

One, that "any person" bit up there should seal the deal in Lockwood's favor. Women are certainly persons, right? Two, as Lockwood was already a practicing attorney in several states, Lockwood met the statute's requirement for admission.

Yet, many states back then had an interesting way of defining "person." By "person," dudes back then usually only meant "men." Some still do. Generally, that is why I take issue with current statutes retaining the gender "neutral" pronoun. Back in the day, the generic "he" often really did only mean "he." Why "people" think women want to constantly be reminded of "man's" exclusion of women from equality and of men's status as default human being is beyond me. But I digress.

When legislators wrote "any person" they clearly didn't mean "any person." The Virginia statute continues:

"Every such person shall produce, before each court in which he intends to practice, satisfactory evidence of his being so licensed or authorized, and take an oath that he will honestly demean himself in the practice of the law, and to the best of his ability execute his office of attorney-at-law; and also, when he is licensed in this state, take the oath of fidelity to the commonwealth." [Emphasis added. Obviously.]

On its face, this appears to be a logically simple case and a clear violation of the 14th Amendment: Women are citizens. The US Constitution prohibits a state from denying citizens the privileges of citizenship. This particular state, Virginia, is denying female citizens the privileges of citizenship by denying them law licenses. Therefore, the state is acting in an unconstitutional manner.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court dismisses Lockwood's claim without providing much analysis or any re-examination of discriminatory precedent.

First, citing Minor v. Happersett, the case that upheld Missouri's "right" to deny women the right to vote, the Court acknowledges that women are indeed US citizens, but then goes on to say that they are that special type of citizen whose rights can be denied. They aren't Real Citizens with equal rights like how men are.

Then, the Court cites Bradwell v. Illinois, which relied on the constitutional-protections-voiding Slaughterhouse Cases to declare that law licensing was a matter of state concern that could not be interfered with. For some background, the Slaughterhouse Cases notoriously stripped the 14th Amendment of its ability to afford US citizens protections against discrimination done to them by states. It held that the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment only protected privileges and immunities conferred by the US government, not state governments. In other words, states could discriminate, but the federal government could not. Unfortunately for lady citizens, many states liked to discriminate against them. Not that such trivialities mattered to a certain majority of white dudes who the discrimination did no affect. In fact, some might say it was beneficial to the career opportunities of white dudes when women were not allowed into the profession.

By citing Bradwell, the Lockwood court held that, because law licenses were issued by states the 14th Amendment's protections did not apply. The state was free to prohibit women from being lawyers.

The American legal system is built on the concept of precedent. While it has its positives, in Lockwood we can see how precedent can lead to stagnation, the maintenance of an unfair status quo, and the reinforcement of male privilege.

Monday, September 21, 2009

2010 California Marriage Protection Act

A fella by the name of John Marcotte has filed the logical conclusion to Proposition 8, the "2010 California Marriage Protection Act." This initiative (PDF), if passed by the voters of California, would essentially ban married couples from divorce.

An interview with Marcotte can be found here. In it, Marcotte discusses why this initiative is needed. Not surprisingly, he believes* that "a return to traditional values" is in order.

While I disagree with this proposal and am confident that it won't pass, it will be interesting to watch nonetheless. Sure, there is a faction of "marriage defenders" who would love to re-institute no-fault divorce. Yet, I think that number is much smaller than the number of people who voted to "protect marriage" by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry.

So, in a way, it's sort of refreshing to see a heterosexual "marriage defender" attempt to enact a law that would actually affect the rights of heterosexuals personally, as opposed to only implementing "marriage-saving" measures to take away the rights of those whom they outnumber. Because really, I can't think of a single measure that would "defend" the idea of "one man, one woman, for life" better than a law banning husbands and wives from divorce.

For the sake of consistency, I'm *sure* we can count on all 7,001,084 Californians who were so very concerned about protecting the sanctity of marriage that they took away the right of same-sex couples to legally marry will now put their money where their mouths are and vote in favor of the 2010 California Marriage Protection Act.

In fact, I think Marcotte himself puts it best:

"People who supported Prop 8 weren't trying to take rights away from gays, they just wanted to protect traditional marriage. That's why I'm confident that they will support this initiative, even though this time it will be their rights that are diminished. To not support it would be hypocritical."

Although, as a point of disagreement, I think that those who supported Prop 8 knew very well what it was they were "trying" to do with respect to the rights of gays. But anyway, Marcotte's point remains. Are "marriage defenders" brave enough and loyal enough to their cause to diminish their own rights?

NOM, DNA (or is that NOM/DNA?) what say you?

*Update- While the initiative is a real one, Marcotte appears to have initiated it for reasons of parodying "marriage defenders."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Violence and More (Possible) Abortion Terrorism

Back in June, I wrote about the politically-motivated murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few providers of late-term abortions in the US. In this article, I specifically avoided arguing that violence was a problem unique to the anti-abortion crowd. Instead, I wrote:

"I know many people who oppose abortion and all of them are quite capable of opposing abortion without murdering abortion doctors. As with any movement, there are those who go beyond rhetoric and peaceful demonstration and engage in acts of violence."

I said that because I think that we get into trouble when we point to instances of horrendous violence committed by our ideological opponents and say "Look, see how violent all of Them are compared to Us?" This is not some startling revelation to many people, but I think it bears repeating that it is not an accurate reflection of reality to be believe that only people on one side of an issue are inherently violent and that certain others are not. In truth, we are all inherently capable of violence, whether we view ourselves as victims or perpetrators in the grand scheme of things. Anyone paying attention can see that some of those who express feeling the most persecuted by others-whether they are gay, Christian, heterosexual, white, black, or whatever- are sometimes some of the most rude, aggressive, condescending, violent people out there.

I don't say that to minimize people's struggles and experiences of oppression, goddess knows anger is often justified. Yet, people often justify their own violence and aggression, be it physical or psychological, by claiming that they are only reacting to violence and aggression done to them. It is a common refrain, especially in the internets, that "turnabout is fair play." Some people are almost impossible to argue with because when you call out their poor behavior their catch-all response is "your side does it too." So focused on what others are doing, they fail to take responsibility for that which they can actually control- their own actions and their own participation in the cycle of violence.

Last Friday, a gunman murdered an anti-abortion activist in Detroit. This abhorrent act, just like Dr. Tiller's murder, is nothing less than domestic terrorism if it was done for ideological purposes. Those of us who are pro-choice have a duty to condemn this act, even though the wrongness of murdering a human being is self-evident to most of us. I say this because people have a lot invested in seeing those they disagree with as inherently bad sorts. It's as though some people think that if other people are inherently "bad," their own position is more "right." And, I have no doubt that this act of violence is further cementing the view among some of those opposed to abortion that pro-choicers are Bad People who like killing babies and who get off on perpetuating a Culture of Death.

Those who are prone to demonizations in that way should think twice about pitting everything as these huge black and white battles where Good and Evil are fighting one another in an Armageddon-like battle of Ultimate Morality. Abortion is rarely simple. And the majority of those who have abortions, who help women have abortions, and (*deep breath deep breath*) who oppose the right of women to have abortions are not monsters.

Given the cyclical nature of violence, the tendency of humans to see violence and hatred only in those they deem Others, and the heated debate that surrounds abortion, we should not be surprised by this latest act of abortion-related violence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Poison of World Net Daily: Defining Itself in Six Lines

It's not often that I read World Net Daily (WND). When I do, it is usually for entertainment purposes or to see what sorts of wackaloon conspiracy theories the birther crowd is into these days. While I doubt that a thing called "objective news" exists at all, WND is quite overt in its rightwing, fundamentalist Christian viewpoint. As Rationalwiki humorously observes:

"[I]t pretends to give multiple sides of an issue, which, to an extent, it does: the conservative viewpoint and the ultra-conservative viewpoint. They are best known for distributing Ann Coulter's insipid, poisonous 'articles', as well as articles written by noted political pundits [sic] Chuck Norris and Pat Boone."

So, while it's not all that often that I agree with WND contributor Pat Buchanan, I did agree with a teensy tidbit in his latest article. Discussing Obama's address to schoolchildren last week, the text of which proved to be remarkably uncontroversial, Pat Buchanan observed the the right's over-the-top paranoia regarding possible Socialist Indoctrination. To summarize, Buchanan went on to state that sometimes, the left and the right need to take things down a notch and return the discourse back to civility. (He then went on to say a bunch of other stuff that I disagree with, but hey, that little nugget about civility was something, wasn't it?)

And then, below. Six lines within Buchanan's article underscored WND's contributions to the political discourse:


Joe Wilson's rude (and ironically dishonest) "You lie!" ejaculation is touted by one of WND's own writers as revelatory of the "poisoned character of our politics." Yet, a few lines down, in one of its tacky, sneaky, embedded-within-the-article advertisements, WND markets and sells Wilson's "You lie!" proclamation as though it is instead some sort of benign message of opposition towards Obama.

Sadly, I can already envision the angry Americans who will proudly slap Wilson's statement on their cars and, because it is also inevitable, the rightist bloggers who will really stick it to Da Man by gleefully creating "You lie!" buttons for their blogs. The poison of WND is that it appeals to the anger and aggression of those dissatisfied with political affairs, convinces everyday Americans that vast conspiracies are at work threatening to persecute their liberties, justifies hostility and incivility based on that paranoia, and then packages it as Real Americana Just Patriotically Defending Itself Against Evil.

When I look at all of the corny advertisements on WND for Armageddon Supplies, Self-Defense Skillz For Dudes, and Rightwing Hate Gear, I know that somebody is winning. Sadly, I don't think it's the American people. Not even those who read WND for "newsgathering," as opposed to entertainment, purposes.

(Because WND is a commercial site, I have not linked to it for obvious reasons. Anyone who wishes to read Pat Buchanan's original article can make use of The Google.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Democrats Introduce Respect for Marriage Act

A group of House Democrats have introduced the Respect for Marriage Act.

The purpose of the bill, which can be read here, is "to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for State regulation of marriage." DOMA, if you remember, prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even those that have a state's legal sanction, for any purpose.

If passed, the Respect for Marriage Act would allow the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in the state where entered into it. That is, the federal government would be required to distribute social security benefits to surviving members of same-sex marriages, to allow same-sex couples to file their federal taxes jointly, to allow US citizens to help non-citizen same-sex partners obtain citizenship, and to provide a host of other tangible benefits, privileges, and rights that same-sex couples are currently denied because of DOMA.

In short, it would rectify a host of injustices that DOMA currently perpetrates upon legally married same-sex couples. Personally, I have always thought that same-sex couples should be given a federal tax credit since we contribute to benefits that we are not legally allowed to avail ourselves of. If this bill fails, maybe Tammy Baldwin should introduce a Tax Fairness For Same-Sex Couples Act.

Anyway, I have several predictions:

1) Republicans, and even some Democrats, will attempt to dismiss this bill, not on its merits, but because the nation has More Important Things to worry about. One can always find More Important Things to worry about when one's own rights are not affected.

2) The anti-gay industry will ratchet up its fear-mongering machine about churches being "forced" to marry two dudes, Gathering Storms of Homo Acceptance, and Poor Carrie Prejean. Not able to complain about Judicial Tyranny (tm) in this case, they will invoke the spectre of Legislative Tyranny, continuing to misunderstand the nature of this thing that is called the American Democratic Process.

They will renew a push for a federal marriage amendment that would amend the US Constitution to include a special amendment banning same-sex marriage. While claiming to not hate gay people and be supportive of "some rights," they will offer no alternatives to ensure that same-sex couples receive the benefits that LGBT people pay for heterosexuals to have. Just cuz that's how they roll.

3) As for it passing, who knows? I know that's not really a prediction, but unlike those who so boldly claim that same-sex marriage will destroy life and probably the entire universe and then make the baby Jesus cry, I don't have a crystal ball that enables me to foresee such things. (My ESP only allows me to predict the behavior of "marriage defenders." They are quite a predictable bunch).

I suppose we can always hope that NOM and company will hypberbolize themselves right out of relevancy. Yet, if the Teabagger Movement is any indication of the socially conservative zeitgeist, many Americans are incredibly resentful right now, very touchy about losing "their" country, and are ready to direct their rage, through Glenn Beck's spittle and tears, wherever their dear leaders point them. We live in a nation where people warn us not to "steal from Medicare to support socialized medicine." Ricockulous numbers of people still believe that President Obama is a secret Muslim who wasn't born in the US. People regularly call him a racist, socialist, communist, fascist, Hitler-person.

If people believe those things, they're pretty likely to also believe that the repeal of DOMA will lead to VeRy ScArY shit.

Anti-gay organizations know how to play into that fear and paranoia. It's sort of what they do best. And, coupled with their tendency to also be truth-aversive, they do it very well. Such is life in a democracy.

Expect the best. Counter them whenever and wherever you can. Contact Congress to let them know where you stand. But prepare for the worst, and bear down for the next contest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Feminism and More Important Things

I recently come across a critique of feminism that is a teensy bit more substantive than some of the usual offerings. And that's always fun for me to deal with since, Twisty once observed that we feminists devote 93.7% of our time towards convincing men that we do not hate them.

Anyway, the critique, over at Heresy Corner, is a variation of the Feminists Should Stop Criticizing Silly Things Like Sexist TV Shows and Instead Criticize More Important Things Like Muslims theme. Specifically, the blogger Heresiarch, argues that Western Femininsts should stop pointlessly arguing about "the evils of sexually stereotyping adverts," and instead should devote their efforts towards helping Muslim women, or specifically, the "millions of subjected women living in conditions [Western Feminists] cannot begin to understand."

You know, if I may digress for a moment, I've always said to myself that one thing feminism really needs is for people who know nothing about feminism to set its agenda. Accordingly, Heresiarch builds up his case:

"I don't pay that much attention to feminism. I don't have a degree in the subject, indeed I've scarcely studied it at all, which according to some people means I'm in no position to comment on any feminist issues."

This ignorance of feminism is common of critics of feminism. It never stops them from criticizing feminism, of course, and I sometimes wonder why so many feel entitled to render critiques of a subject they know nothing about. Is it because feminism (oftentimes) pertains to lady stuff and, therefore, they believe it requires no real expertise. Any schmoe off the street can waltz into Virginia Woolf's room of her own and utterly "demolish" the entirety of feminism by virtue of his objective, reasoned manliness? Ker-pow!

Anyway, the first part of Heresiarch's sentence, you will notice, is an admission that the author is ignorant with respect to feminism. He doesn't pay attention to it and has "scarcely studied it." Therefore, the second part of that sentence, you will also notice, has a purpose. It's purpose is to take the focus off of the author's ignorance regarding feminism and, instead, shine a light on how "some people" might, perhaps wrongly, take issue with someone criticizing a subject when he doesn't "pay much attention to" that subject. Probably because of Political Correctness Gone Awry or some shit.

He continues, regarding his ignorance:

"But I'm not sure how relevant that is. We live in a media-saturated age, and it is up to feminists to put their case in the public sphere, to make their voices heard, to get across their arguments, to persuade those of us who haven't memorised Feminism 101 of the validity of their case."

Here, we see a shift in the argument. First, he admits that he doesn't pay much attention to feminism but he explains this away by arguing that feminists just haven't made their voices heard. Perhaps ignorant of the fact that many (though certainly not all) people are quite familiar with feminism, he mistakes his perception for objective reality and argues that feminism is unpersuasive and unknown just because it hasn't sufficiently infiltrated the public sphere with which he, personally, is familiar.

You know, along these lines, people have been telling us for years that Western culture has been feminized and that feminist indoctrination has infiltrated governments, the legal system, education, and indeed all of society. Heresiarch's argument that feminists have not made their voices heard these days presents quite the paradox. From different sources, we learn that feminism is super-duper powerful yet mysssssssteriously not at all powerful or persuasive.

Nonetheless, neither his ignorance nor his astounding lack of initiative with respect to learning about feminism stop Heresiarch from doing two things. One, he entitles himself to tell his readers what feminism is:

"Feminism is best expressed by Melissa McEwan's solipsistic whining about how she feels undermined by male friends daring to argue with her."

Disregarding the fact that Heresiarch has turned McEwan's actual argument into an absurd strawman, let's instead focus on the fact that even though Heresiarch admittedly doesn't "pay much attention to" feminism, he somehow just knows it's "best expressed" by the figure of a womyn sitting around whining just to hear herself whine. And two, he goes on to set the new Feminist Agenda:

"It's not that feminists never talk about [the Muslim oppression of women]. It's just that I seriously wonder why they ever talk about anything else."

Feminists see these sorts of critiques all the time from those non-feminist ignorers of feminism who deem themselves the arbiters of all that is True and Important in life.

We are told by the paragon of feminism that is the Catholic Church, for instance, that the "new feminism" should place a primacy on protecting fetuses. Dudes write to feminist bloggers all the time informing us that "there are so many terrible things that exist today and happen to women" that we shouldn't waste time critiquing arguably idiotic Seth Rogen films. Even liberal doods tell feminists to fuck off if we dare mention that, say, an ad at their Very Important Political blog might be perceived as sexist. And yes, even atheist non-feminists call women whiny for suggesting that some skeptic communities aren't particularly welcoming to women.

The message is clear, regular everyday sexist stuff doesn't matter and isn't worth talking about, especially when there are More Important Things to think about.

It is true that some women have it harder than Western feminists, since we're now apparently quantifying oppression in an objective, measurable way. And, (I think Heresiarch would agree with me here) I would certainly argue that the three major monotheistic religions have, historically speaking, been one of the most powerful institutional contributors to the oppression of women.

Yet, it is also true that the mainstream viewpoint, which is decidedly non-feminist, regularly dismisses, denigrates, and caricatures feminist viewpoints. Many people have the privilege of not having to "pay much attention" to feminism or so-called "women's issues." And so, quite simply, they don't. When non-feminists or anti-feminists do pay attention, they often shame and silence us by calling us humorless for, say, not laughing at their sexist "jokes" or nodding in genteel agreement when they recite Rush Limbaugh's line about feminists being ugly.

From those who have the privilege of being considered default human beings who are privy to the One and Only Objective Worldview, feminists often receive quite the schizophrenic message. On the one hand, feminists aren't worth listening to because all they do is whine and ruin everybody's fun. But on the other hand, they should use their incredible powers of indoctrination to work on More Important Issues.

But worse than this mixed message, is the fact that non-feminist advisors to feminism are often so very wrong about what feminism is and is not. Perhaps placing a primacy on their own "objective" worldview, they assume that their ignorance about what feminists do, care about, and strive towards is an accurate reflection of reality.

It's usually not.

As Neil Robertson notes:

"Equally, if you’re comfortable dismissing western feminism for being 'bogged down in its own limitless self-regard' or, as Cohen does, for ‘turning a blind eye to misogyny’, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’re just not paying enough attention to feminism.

For this characterisation to be true, we would have to ignore the western feminists who run Women for Women International, the Feminist Majority Foundation, or the Global Fund for Women, and ignore all the work they do in Muslim countries. Similarly, we would have to ignore the feminists who’ve campaigned to help the women of Afghanistan, support those protesting for democracy in Iran and end the practices of stoning & ‘honour’ killing.

Once we’re done ignoring the western feminists in aid organisations, NGOs and pressure groups, we’d then have to ignore the scholars who’ve written books about these issues, the activists who’ve actually visited Muslim countries and the innumerable bloggers who regularly post in opposition to oppression, or in support of the brave women who fight against it....

The voices are many, widespread and longstanding, and just because neither Clive nor Nick [nor Heresiarch] has noticed doesn’t make it untrue."

Monday, September 14, 2009

More Marriage Defender Hypocrisy

Surprise surprise, another Defender of Traditional Marriage has turned out to be a marriage hypocrite. While he is now pathetically denying an affair, California Assemblyman- and married father of two- Michael Duvall was "caught boasting about his sexual escapades with his lobbyist mistresses." He was busted when, unbeknownst to him, his microphone in the Assembly was on when he started blabbing about his mistress:

"She wears little eye-patch underwear, so I can see her eye patches. So, the other day she came here with her underwear, Thursday. And so, we had made love Wednesday, a lot. And so she'll she's all, I am going up and down the stairs and you're dripping out of me. So messy. (laughing)"

First off, ew. That definitely just made me a little more gay.

Secondly, how awesome is it that his microphone was on during his braggadocio? It kind of makes one wish that Congress would institute a law mandating microphones on every public servant that had to be worn at all times. And hey, given the fact that we now live in a Communist Socialist Fascist Nazi state, I'm sure that's not far behind, eh?

Third, noting the hypocrisy of anti-gay politicians is relevant to the public debate surrounding marriage equality. Those opposed to LGBT rights sometimes think that moral hypocrisy is conveniently irrelevant when engaged in by those on their own side. Likewise, they think we take joy in observing their fallen heroes and that we are just Being Mean and Persecuting them again when we note it.

So, let me be clear. I most certainly don't revel in an anti-gay politician going through a difficult personal situation, even if it's one of his own making. I always find it unfortunate when yet another woman is placed in the unenviable position of being pitied and/or publicly humiliated by the actions of a selfish spouse.

Rather, I find Traditional Values Hypocrisy to be indicative of an incredibly sad state of politics. Duvall, as we have seen time and time again, is not alone in his moral values hypocrisy. In the Vitters, Craigs, and Haggards, we see that some of the most visible and adamant supporters of Traditional Values only demand other people's adherence, rather than their own, to those values.

Duvall was an outspoken supporter of Proposition 8, and via his prominent position played a role in preventing millions of others from entering into a legal institution that he himself made a very public mockery of. When a person publicly claims to revere the institution of marriage, yet simultaneously disgraces that institution and, indeed, brags to his workplace buddies about doing so, his status as "marriage defender" cannot be taken seriously and comes off as incredibly insincere.

One, in fact, is justified in suspecting ulterior motives for his Staunch Support of Traditional Values. Moral hypocrisy on the part of alleged upholders of morality supports the argument that "marriage defense" politicians don't actually give a hoot about marriage but instead use their support of traditional values in general, and "marriage defense" in particular, to drive a wedge between Americans solely for their own political gain.

It is instances of profound moral hypocrisy among "champions" of marriage that help render "marriage defense" as a concept utterly meaningless. Given the degree to which so many self-proclaimed "marriage defenders" do little more than monomanically oppose Everything Gay, the movement is absurd and of questionable benefit to society. The nation's most prominent "marriage defense" organization devotes incredible amounts of resources, not towards supporting working families, not towards encouraging low-income couples to remain married, not towards trying to get men to help parent their children, and not towards providing marital counseling to ensure that heterosexuals get and stay married, but towards ensuring that same-sex couples don't get married, a "harm" that is impossible to prove yet that is immensely appealing given the degree to which so many already dislike queers.

Feminists have known for years that the personal is political. It's a lesson that our supposedly more morally enlightened citizens have yet to learn. They often oppose government intrusion into our their lives, but they mandate intrusion into other people's lives by continually arguing that the government has a duty to only uphold "Judeo-Christian" values and to support only certain types of families. Yet, while interfering in the lives of millions of others, some Traditional Values folks display an audacity that places them beyond the moral standards that they set for other people in the political sphere.

And on a tangential note, I may just be a dork, but WTF is "eye-patch underwear"?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Non-Political Blog About Courage and Strength

I have never had cancer, but I can't imagine that I'd be particularly strong if I did get it. For one, I have an almost pathological dislike of vomiting. Seriously. I know that no one particularly likes to throw up, but I have probably thrown up no more than a handful of times in life. I'm probably jinxing myself by writing that, but anyway.

Two, during the years when I lacked health insurance, I had intermittent bouts of cyberchrondia. Not being able to afford to go to the doctor, I would use Dr. Google to do a search for any symptoms I was experiencing and then I would do the next logical thing and diagnose myself with everything from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to prostate cancer. That was anxiety-provoking enough, and I think that the finality of receiving an actual cancer diagnosis from a real doctor would be much more frightening.

Cancer is scary to us. If we ourselves have not had it, we almost certainly have close friends and relative who have. Yet, is there something a bit unrealistic about glorifying those dealing with cancer who Put on a Brave Face and Live Strong? One writer, suggests yes:

"It seems to me the cancer community has blown out of proportion the concept of strength. My back has been up against the oncology wall many times when I’ve gone under the knife or swallowed a radioactive iodine pill. I’ve surmounted these challenges not because I’m strong, but because the alternative means dying. It is strange to have placed on me such lofty personality judgments and descriptors like strength, courage and inspiration in response to having gone through situations that stink and about which I have no other choice."

I think often about courage and enjoyed reading some of the comments to the article discussing the concept. People see courage in many different situations. Some, see it in firefighters rushing into burning buildings to rescue people. Others see it in soldiers going to war. I see it in those situations, but also in common, simple experiences. Almost daily, each of us probably faces some sort of fear in life. Courage, I think, doesn't mean never being scared. It means feeling that fear, acknowledging it, and doing what you have to do in that moment anyway.

A theme tended to occur in some of the comments. Maybe it's not cancer that makes people brave and strong. Maybe each of us is already those things and somewhere along the way, some of us forget that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday Fun- Ellen To Host American Idol

Perhaps you've already heard that Ellen DeGeneres has joined American Idol as the fourth judge.

Ooh, let me be the first to predict all hell breaking loose when she asks an unlucky, inarticulate, and perhaps beautiful contestant's thoughts on marriage only to have that contestant oppose marriage equality, subsequently lose Idol, score a book deal, nab speaking engagements, and become living "proof" as to how The Powerful Gays Ruin Everything And Pretty Much Suck At Life.

But seriously, I'm happy for Ellen. To brag, I had the fortune of attending a live taping of her very successful show in LA. Once I got over the fear of getting "called on" (which sometimes happens during live audience thingies), it was a really enjoyable experience. I think Ellen is witty, friendly, and incredibly funny. And more than that, I appreciate that she doesn't have to be negative and put other people down in order to be successful. I don't watch American Idol, but I suspect she'll be a nice counter-balance to Simon Cowell's Debbie Downer-itis.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Toward a Ladyless Society

In the movie A League of Their Own, we learned that it was of the utmost importance for female professional baseball players to learn how to be ladies. Accordingly, players took etiquette lessons where they learned the so-very-relevant-to-baseball skills of walking with books on their heads, crossing their legs properly (left over right, a lady reveals nothing), and sipping (not slurping) their soups.

Thankfully, we Vagina-Americans no longer have to learn how to be ladies when we embark on careers, pursue educations, or play professional sports. Well, most of the time that is.

Anyway, my point is that feminism has done a lot to rid society of the notion that lady people are very different from those people that are just humans who are otherwise known as men. Historically, concepts of gender difference have been used to assert the natural supremacy of men and to deny women and girls opportunities in the public sphere. That is why, when women began doing things that people did, like play baseball for instance, it was very important to remind everyone that these new athletes were, first and foremost, ladies. And, lest anyone be mistaken, they weren't athletes like how people were athletes, they were lady athletes.

Applying this line of thought to broader society, it can be interesting to observe people who bemoan the Loss of Ladies In Society. Indeed, writing in the Townhall, Eva Lorraine Molina asks, "Where Have All the Ladies Gone?" In this article, aside from at first appearing like a lesbionic take on a Paula Cole song, Molina speculates that feminism has pretty much ruined ladyness.

She argues that a Real Lady doesn't tell dirty jokes, doesn't let men tell dirty jokes in her presence, doesn't swear, and doesn't consider herself "one of the guys." Our Charm School Instructor continues, admonishing ladies to always dress appropriately, to not do anything at a "social gathering" that one would regret the next day, and to be all-around well-mannered.

In all, I find Morraine's advice to be quaint. And also a bit boring, but that's tangential. In fact, the only thing fascinating about her advice is that she targets it only to conservative women.

I wonder why that is.

If ladyness is all it's cracked up to be, wouldn't it behoove liberal women to be ladies too? Does it just go without saying that liberal women are inherently incapable of ladyness? Or, is it more likely that she wants only conservative women to be ladies so they can bask together in the glow of their uptight moral lady superiority and convince themselves that, despite all of the progress in the public sphere The Feminists are making, they are okay with their traditional-gender-role-dictated limited lot in life because at least they are ladies and that Means Something?

Inquiring minds want to know.

A recent study has demonstrated that feminists actually like men more than non-feminists do. I think that some of these women who oppose feminism are quite resentful of their "God"-given role in life and, as such, have come to really embrace the status of Lady. Historically, we have seen that men have used that very status, lady, to deny women opportunities in the public sphere through the benevolently sexist notion that ladies are too frail to do all of the things that men are just "naturally suited" for. Perhaps it is the case that some women use that status to make themselves feel superior to women who pursue opportunities traditionally reserved for men, and especially those feminist women who tell dirty jokes and fuck people on their own terms just like how male people have done for thousands of years.

The anti-feminist conservative ideology at once tells women that they belong only in the home but also that they are on a pedestal.

Nonetheless, we should never be mistaken as to what anti-feminists believe a lady is and is not. At this point, it is fitting to answer Ms. Molina's question, "Where have all the ladies gone?"

My answer is simple. Short.

They have become people. With all of the good and bad that that entails.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1. Assaults on Lesbians in South Africa

*trigger warning*

Previously, we have seen the Human Rights Watch document the murder and torture of gay men in Iraq. In that post, I noted the seeming invisibility of lesbians in the report and in Iraq. Where the enforcement of strict, traditional gender codes exists, I would argue that lesbians would be much less visible than gay men given women's relatively fewer opportunities for economic self-sufficiency in such societies. That being said, I do not at all believe that visible lesbians would be tolerated.

In South Africa, for instance, where "traditional views about sexuality still run deep," "many quarters" (whatever that means) have a strong resentment of lesbians. In fact:

"500,000 women are raped in South Africa, with lesbians a particular target. The warped logic is that the assault will 'cure' them. As a result, says ActionAid, 86 per cent of black lesbians live in fear of rape. Their anxiety is understandable: only a minority of rapes are reported to the police and, of these, only one in five ends up in court, with a meagre 4 per cent of them ending in a conviction."

This particular article highlights the assault of Eudy Simelane, a sports star and open lesbian, who was gang raped and murdered a group of men raped and murdered in South Africa.

I do not think one can separate the hatred of women from the hatred of homosexuality. At their core, they are both about asserting the dominance of an exaggerated, aggressive, and anti-social hyper-masculinity.

2. Anti-Gay Bullying

In Minnesota, two teachers are on leave after having been accused of repeatedly mocking a student they believed to be gay. The (alleged) asininity of the teacher, Diane Cleveland:

"According to the report, the high school junior wrote a report on Ben Franklin during the 2007-2007 school year. Cleveland told the entire class that the student had a 'thing for older men.' Cleveland also told the class the boy's 'fence swings both ways.'

When the student wrote a report on Abraham Lincoln, teacher Walter Filson said, 'Since you like your men older ...' Filson also told some students that the boy 'enjoys wearing women's clothes.'

Cleveland also asked him if he wanted a gay student to come to the bathroom with him and they could tap feet under the stalls. Filson even agreed and laughed along when a student compared Merritt to a person they discussed in class that had molested deer."

In the US, the National Day of Silence brings "attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment in schools." It is tragic enough when students partake in any sort of bullying, but for a teacher to join in the "fun" is inexcusable. Yet, at least from my experience in the public school system, I can't say that it was all that unexpected or rare teachers, coaches, and other authority figures to make anti-gay remarks. They certainly didn't step in and stop other kids from making them.

Some people opposed to LGBT rights and equality, oppose the National Day of Silence because they believe it is some sort of propaganda campaign to promote "the homosexual agenda." I can only think that this opposition comes from either a willful ignorance or complete unconcern regarding the anti-LGBT bullying that occurs among students and, less often, teachers. Given that bullying based on the hatred, dislike, or discomfort with all things LGBT exists, I can only ask what those who oppose the National Day of Silence propose as an alternative to deal with this very real social problem.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Clergymen

I've been struggling to write a post about notorious "Pastor" Steven Anderson, who preaches that every. single. gay. person is a child molester who deserves to die, among other things.

Instead, I want to leave you with something uplifting today.

Reverend David Weekley has been a Methodist clergyman for 27 years. He is the married father of 5 children. On August 30, for the first time ever, Weekley told his congregation of 221 (mostly) Japaneses-Americans his secret. He was born a female.


"Following his story, the congregation, who had remained silent throughout his talk, broke into thunderous applause. Church members then proclaimed their support for their pastor....

Weekley’s original plan was to keep quiet throughout his career, waiting until retirement to finally come out. But a trip he took with church members in June 2008 changed his mind.

Weekley joined members of his congregation, which is 95 percent Japanese-American, on a pilgrimage to the remnants of a World War II internment camp for Japanese-Americans in Minidoka, Idaho, just outside of Twin Falls.

The experience touched him deeply. He had faith that a congregation like his own, many of them having experienced prejudice and alienation would be a safe place to come out, he says.

He was right."

David chose his name because it means "Beloved of God." Yes, he most certainly is. And, it is always nice to experience another person being beloved by humanity, as well.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Article: "Separated Fathers and the Father's Rights Movement"

I have very mixed feelings about what is generally called the Father's Rights Movement, which is related to the Men's Rights Movement.

Given my journeys through feminist theory, it probably comes as no surprise to anyone here that I believe that humans have made gender a category that is much more deterministic than it really is. Historically, "man" has been the human norm and is often contrasted with "woman," its weaker "opposite." Many implications follow from that one assumption. Thus, I am incredibly intrigued by the phenomenon of large groups of men who believe some variation of the theme that it is men as a class, rather than women, who are oppressed by... society, women, feminists, and/or men(?).

It has been my experience, via interactions with adherents of these movements and in reading their writings and internet discussions, that some (many? most?) of these men are (a) very bitter about a divorce, (b) very angry about having to pay child support, and/or (c) anxious about the progress that women as a class have made over the years and thus possessive of a reactionary hatred for all things feminist.

At the same time, I can acknowledge that the justice system is unfair to men in that it often does grant custody to a biological mother. In our society, many still assume that women are the natural caretakers for children. And so, perhaps ironically, the same assumption that hinders the professional lives of women becomes an injustice to the personal lives of men. Two people going through a divorce, so focused on their own pain, anger, and hurt, often act like large children themselves. Accordingly, through the legal system, they sometimes use their actual children as tools to "get back at" their spouse. That a formal institution like a court takes the "side" of one spouse over another can breed an enormous amount of resentment.

Father's Rights/Mens' Rights groups, from what I've observed, often feed right into that anger and resentment. Upon visiting various forums, I am often left wondering how those sites are truly helping anyone. Ultimately, I am left unconvinced that many of these folks give a hoot about women or equality and, instead, want to take back some of their lost Male Privilege using the sword of Victimhood. I know of one forum, which will go unnamed here, that claims to be opposed to the (alleged) feminist-induced hatred of men, but whose members regularly and quite literally opine upon the general "cuntiness" of all women.

Over the years, I have come to question the value of venting. We all have our moments, sure. But we should never forget that they are moments of self-indulgence that can be a real hindrance to dealing with emotions in a healthy and grown-up way. I don't think it helps anyone, especially the angry person, to remain and continue reinforcing hostile and hateful sentiments.

Over at XY Online, I came across an article called "Separated Fathers and the Father's Rights Movement," by Michael Flood, which offers a critique of father's rights groups. In it, he writes:

"[T]here is also some evidence that fathers’ rights groups constrain the healing processes of separated fathers. Fathers’ rights groups position men and fathers as victims, downplaying any sense of men’s or non-custodial parents’ agency, making analogies with oppressed groups...and painting their opponents as possessing enormous power....Ideas of ‘a damaged masculinity and unappreciated fatherhood’ become central to their identities."

To add to this, I will admit that I used to become very angry reading some of the anti-woman, anti-feminist sentiment expressed by men who frequent some of these forums. Now, however, I see that many of these men are hurting. Unfortunately, the "masculinity" that society has offered men has failed them. Being hurt, being sad, having any semblance of awareness of what's going on inside, makes a man a sissy, a wuss, and perhaps worst of all, woman-like. Indeed, I'm sure many men would mock this very paragraph. That's just how some doods roll. Indeed, Flood notes that "[t]raditional constructions of masculinity encourage men to be stoic and emotionally inexpressive and to avoid and denigrate stereotypically feminine qualities which leave a person open and vulnerable to others such as love and compassion." And so instead of dealing with their hurt like human beings, men often deal with it the only way they have learned how. By being angry.

Furthermore, while father's rights groups express a concern with respect to formal equality, Flood observes that "they neglect the issue of actual shared parenting" suggesting that they want the status of equality, but not the substance of what that equality actually entails- caretaking and a true division of labor. Along those lines, while many feminists advocate for breaking down divisions based on gender, many father's rights advocates "typically insist on rigid gender codes within the family and the re-establishment of paternal authority."

Flood's article, in all, is an interesting and critical look at a movement that perhaps can more accurately be defined as part of that larger anxious backlash against the breakdown of traditional gender roles. It is clear that, when children are involved, a more positive response to divorce than what the father's rights movement offers men is necessary. Women, men, and children deserve a father's rights movement that is respectful of true gender equality.