Friday, August 28, 2009

Farewell, Advocate

I'm not generally one to glorify people after they have died. I think that we have this odd tendency to deify famous deceased human beings. Besides, if I had my way, we would all show more appreciation for each other when we're here, as opposed to when we're not.

Senator Ted Kennedy was a flawed human being. He was a privileged white man with a well-known family name who battled his own personal demons, including implications in a possibly DUI-related death of a woman and the smear of woman who accused his relative of rape.

I wonder if I would have even liked him very much had I known him.


The Obama Administration should take note that Senator Kennedy was a "fierce advocate" for the LGBT community, doing so much more than talking a big talk. He was an advocate for those living with HIV/AIDS at a time when many were consumed by fear and homo-baiting. He was a sponsor of hate crimes legislation that included sexual orientation and gender identity. He supported equal immigration rights for LGBT couples. He supported marriage equality. And, he opposed the ban on gays in the military and a host of other anti-LGBT measures designed to drive "a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage."

Near and dear to my heart, Senator Kennedy was a key supporter of Title IX, the federal law that granted women equal opportunities in athletics. He continually supported the law through all of the attacks, backlash, and accusations that it was Ruining Real (ie, Men's) Sports.

There aren't many politicians in our nation who I feel are true advocates who support the interests, not of themselves and their political aspirations, but of Others. Senator Kennedy was a privileged white man from the East coast who didn't have to care about equality for people like me. But he did anyway.

For that, I thank him.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reading, Writing, and Male Privilege

When I read fiction for pleasure, I tend to read fiction written by female authors. This isn't a conscious thing. It is just, I suppose, my preference. I spent decades of my life, in school, reading books written by men and, well, now I know what I like. And, now that I can choose what I am going to read, I read what I am interested in and what I enjoy.

What I would never do, however, is compile all of my favorite lady-authored stories and create some sort of anthology called Bestest Fiction Writing Ever On the Planet! Why? Well, for one, what the "best" writing is, is largely a subjective matter. It's a personal preference. Two, I know any list I create would not really be a list of the Bestest Ever writing (could there ever, objectively, be such a thing anyway?). It would, instead, be a list of (what I believed to be) the Bestest Ever writing by only a smaller segment of all writers, namely, the women ones.

A few weeks ago, however, the science fiction blogosphere was in an uproar about one such anthology. Its title? The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction, edited by Mike Ashley. Of this anthology's contents, the front cover made the following claim: "The 25 Finest Stories of Awesome Science Fiction."

Of these stories, as blogger Arachne Jericho notes, not a single one was written by a woman or a person of color.

Now, given my introduction to this post, I absolutely think that people are entitled to their own reading preferences. That's a no-brainer. Yet, what becomes problematic is when people pass off their own subjective preferences as some sort of objective truth about what kind of writers tend to be the "best" or most "awesome" kind of writers. That's my issue with anthologies that claim to present the best, finest, or most awesomest of any kind of writing.

See, we all have our personal preferences. I stated mine above. While some of us might say we don't "notice" things like the sex, gender, race, or ethnicity of the author, I think that many people nonetheless prefer writing written by certain types of authors. Reading is a personal thing, and what speaks to one person doesn't necessarily speak to another. So, I think it's also a no-brainer that this particular editor of science fiction writing has a personal preference for white male-authored stories. There's nothing "bad" about that, per se. It only becomes a problem when a person turns that preference into some sort of objective truth. Like, perhaps claiming that the stories he likes are "the 25 finest stories of awesome science fiction."

When these sorts of things happen, one can predict certain responses. For one, women and people of color will become upset. And justifiably so. Works by women and people of color are largely excluded from what is considered the Western canon of literature and "classics." While the exclusion of women and people of color (POC) from the Western canon is the result of a myriad of historical factors, the exclusion of these groups of writers from a modern science fiction anthology is not at all complicated, justifiable, or excusable. (I'm not saying it's justifiable or excusable to exclude women and POC from the Western canon- just that it's less so for more modern works, given the great numbers of authors in these groups toiling away).

Two, when the Anthology Defenders come out, we will see the axiom "privilege means not having to be aware of one's own privilege" come into play. Specifically, the white male fans of science fiction who aren't appalled at an anthology's exclusion of non-white, non-male writers, will insist that when they read science fiction, they just want to read good science fiction. They don't care about quotas, tokens, or diversity. They just want to read good stories. And, so what if every single last one of those good stories happen to have been written by a white man? Implicit in this argument, oodles of which you can find in the comment section of the link above, is the idea that it was just some sort of Incredible but Justified Coincidence that the anthology only contains works by white men.

That outlook is, simply, white male privilege in action. It is an entitlement, a perspective, that differs from that of many women and many people of color. For, as a woman, I am both aware that (a) I like good stories too and (b) the stories I find to be "good" are often written by women. As white men, many fans are aware that (a) they like good stories too but (b) they don't "notice" things like race, gender, or ethnicity (even though they, like say Mike Ashley, obviously have preferences for fiction written by white men).

Why don't they notice these things? They don't have to.

When JRR Tolkien conjures up an incredibly rich fantasy series that includes walking trees, rich made-up languages, and a powerful magical ring-thingy, but cannot seem to imagine a race of woman warriors or, indeed even, say, one woman in an entire trilogy full of male characters who is not defined solely by her beauty or her relationship to a man, that is male privilege in action. That male readers (and many female readers) fail to notice, that they don't have to notice, the homosocially male world that Tolkien has created, that is male privilege in action.

Many men don't have to notice things like gender. And so, quite simply, they don't.

And, in not noticing the exclusivity of character and/or author representation, they nonetheless act as though they have some sort of handle on objective quality that the rest of us, who do notice such things, lack. They have the privilege of believing that what counts as "good" fiction to themselves is the arbiter of what counts as good fiction for everyone else, blissfully ignorant of the fact that oftentimes their lists are exclusive, both in terms of author and character representation. While the writers of the Greats/Bests/Awesomests often exclude and alienate we Others, white men have the privilege of believing that people who look much like themselves are Just Really Good at Writing, Coincidentally!, and that those Others (a) whine too much, (b) are tokens, and/or (c) are only making these complaints because they are jealous of the Incredible Talent of the White Man.

Not having to notice that Others have stories to tell too, and that Others are listening to those stories, they, quite simply, don't.


The Angry Black Woman's Most Awesome (ha ha) takedown of a defender of this anthology of white male science fiction.

K Tempest Bradford's "Mindblowing" List of science fiction by women and persons of color.

My reviews of Ursula Le Guin's "The Matter of Seggrei" and The Left Hand of Darkness.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1) Cultural Misogyny

I was pleased to read this opinion piece in The New York Times. In it, Bob Herbert discusses George Sodini's recent murderous rampage in the context of a larger society that encourages the hatred of women. He writes:

"We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.

We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.

The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny, and pornography is now a multibillion-dollar industry — much of it controlled by mainstream U.S. corporations.

One of the striking things about mass killings in the U.S. is how consistently we find that the killers were riddled with shame and sexual humiliation, which they inevitably blamed on women and girls. The answer to their feelings of inadequacy was to get their hands on a gun (or guns) and begin blowing people away."

Of course, we Know-Nothing Feminist Harpies have been Hysterically Screeching these things for years. Maybe now more people will listen to this message, coming as it does from (a) a The New York Times columnist who is (b) a man.

2) Hey, "God" Is a Real Jerk!

Via Towleroad, a pastor in Minnesota has interpreted a recent tornado in the area as a "gentle but firm warning" from "God"/"Jesus" regarding the Lutheran Church's re-consideration of the ban on gay clergy.

I always find it so unfortunate when people project onto "god" the human traits of anger, pettiness, and general assholery. It certainly doesn't convince anyone who isn't already horrified of such a "god" that such "he" is worthy of worship.

3) Re-thinking "Real" History

Renee at Womanist Musings reminds us of an inconvenient truth. Namely, that the venerable Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father And All That, was a rapist.

When I was in school, I never learned that in my Real History classes. Did you?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Story Review: The Matter of Seggrei

In reading fiction, I have been on a bit of an Ursula Le Guin kick as of late. I have always appreciated science fiction and fantasy writing, and what I particularly like about her stories are her creative explorations of gender, sex, and sexuality. (I previously wrote about her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, here, about the planet Gethen, whose inhabitants are androgynous beings).

The way I see it, many of her stories are thought experiments. For instance, on Gethen, the essential question is what could a world look like that has no concept of sex and gender? Examining these "other worlds," or even mulling those questions over, can lead to re-examining how sex and gender influence our own world.

In her short story "The Mattter of Seggri," (contained in the compilation of short stories, The Birthday of the World) the question is, what could a world look in which females greatly outnumber males. On Le Guin's planet Seggri, only about 1 in 6 conceptions result in a male fetus and, due to the fragility of male babies, by adulthood there is only 1 man for every 16 women on the planet.

The consequences of this imbalance are essentially a reversal of gender-dictated public/private roles in our own world, here on Earth. On Seggri, boys are removed from their homes around puberty and taken to "castles" where they learn how to be men. In order to ensure the survival of the species, men are restricted to two endeavors in life- competing and having sex. Under their norms of masculinity, they learn to compete in various athletic competitions, often for the entertainment of women. And, they live in "fuckeries," institutions that essentially make them nothing more than sperm donor prostitutes.

Everything else pertaining to the public sphere- running the government, raising families, going to college, having a career- is considered "women's work." While women have sex with men in the "fuckeries," women are only allowed to marry other women. Men, it is said, are little more than brutes- desiring nothing more than physical pleasure and competition with other men. A real person (ie- a woman), is not capable of having a real relationship with such an animal.

Upon reading this story, I found the parallels to our own world interesting. Predicated upon "necessity," the role of men on Seggrei nonetheless seem absurd. Perhaps because they vastly outnumber men, women hold all of the real power and they use that power to essentially effectuate a giant affirmative action program for women. Rather than treating men as the human beings that they are, men are given a very restricted role based on the beliefs that (a) men are animal-like and (b) that the human race would die out if men did not fulfill this role.

In this fiction, how the women in Seggrei treat men underscores the historical injustices that men, as a class, have imparted on women here on Earth.

First, the one's who hold power, women, deny that men are full humans in the same way that women are. In Le Guin's story, she writes of a man who falls in love with one of the women who comes to visit him in the "fuckery." He wants to leave the castle and marry her. The woman rejects him, thinking:

"...[D]espite his romantic talk of love, he was a man, and to a man fucking is the most important thing, instead of being merely one element of love and life as it is to a woman. (48)"

Does this sound familiar to anyone? It should. On Seggrei, we see that the stereotype of the True Nature of Men is the same as it is here on Earth, where movies, the mainstream, and emails urging men to enhance their penises barrage us with the message that men only care about fucking. They are animals, and because of that, on Seggrei women are "justified" in keeping men out of what is thought of as the real world and excluding them from real relationships.

On Earth, of course, we deal with this Male Problem in a different way. Social conservatives insist that marriage is an institution that is necessary to keep the Naturally Promiscuous Man in check. The woman, it is said, polices male hyper-sexuality and, also, is the subordinate "complementary" half to the male, around whom marriage really revolves.

Two, in addition to the male stereotype keeping him confined to de facto sexual slavery, on Seggrei, men are kept ignorant, unschooled. In the story, the man who had fallen in love with the woman who visited him in the fuckery wrote her a letter, expressing his love for her. The woman reacted in the following way:

"She received an immediate answer from [him], a letter begging her to come and talk with him, full of avowals and unchanging love, badly spelled and almost illegible. The letter touched, embarrassed and shamed her, and she did not answer it." (48)

Here, we see how men on Seggrei are in a Catch-22. It is, supposedly, in their nature to only want to fuck and compete, and so they are denied an education. Yet, because they are denied an education, they remain ignorant. This ignorance only reinforces the "natural" stupidity and animalistic nature of men. The woman in this story ultimately rejected the man as a lover and true partner in life, in part because of his "inherent" stupidity. She was embarrassed for him and of him. Instead, she sought business and romantic partnership with an equal, another woman.

Again, the parallels to our own world are quite obvious. Throughout history, men refused to allow women entry into the public sphere- into universities and learned occupations- because of Woman's Natural Delicacy, Stupidity, and Reproductive Capabilities. While men have excluded women from the public sphere throughout history, some men nevertheless claim that men have created pretty much everything good in the world as though that is a testament to the Inherent Superiority of Men, and not a testament to something else men were really "good" at- keeping women out of the public sphere. For, had aliens visited our planet a mere 50 years ago, they would have been justified in believing that men vastly outnumbered women here on Earth, given the extent to which men afforded themselves a giant affirmative action program in the public sphere.

In addition to highlighting injustices based on sex, gender, and sexuality in our own world, Le Guin's stories demonstrate that just because customs are a certain way here on Earth, it doesn't mean they ought to be that way. Always, there is room to re-think our institutions and the "self-evidentness" of what it means to be men and women and what that, in turn, means for relationships and institutions.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Male and Female, Again

Perhaps you've read about about South African runner Caster Semenya. To summarize, Semenya is an 18-year-old woman who recently won a gold medal in a race at the World Championships in Berlin. Almost immediately after she won, other contestants began questioning her biological sex, some of them even outright calling her "a man."


"The International Assn. of Athletic Federations has asked the 5-foot-7, 140-pound athlete to undergo a battery of complex gender tests, and it could take months to get the results. If found to be male, Semenya could be disqualified from competing and stripped of her medals."

First and foremost, I find this story to be sad. As I looked at the picture of her beautiful smiling face as she proudly held up her medal, I immediately wondered how much of the questioning was due to (a) her gender non-conformity (she appears "masculine")(b) her race (she is black), and (c) simple jealousy and sore-loser-itis on the part of her competitors. As South Africa's Youth Communist (EEEEK, THE COMMIES!11!!) League has said:

"It feeds into the commercial stereotypes of how a woman should look, their facial and physical appearance, as perpetuated by backward Eurocentric definition of beauty.

It is this culture which has forced many African women to starve themselves with the objective of reaching the model ramps of Paris and Milan to become the face of this or that product or magazine."

Now, she could very well have some sort of intersex, chromosomal, or hormonal condition that renders her biological sex ambiguous. Yet, given the pervasive expectations that exist for men and women to conform to certain ideals of beauty, looks, and appearance and the fact that white people are often considered the Default Human, it seems almost certain that had Semenya been a white runner sporting a blond ponytail, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Even though an elite white female runner sporting a blond ponytail could just as likely have a biological anomaly or intersex condition as Semenya.

Regardless of the outcome, I think that instances such as these can be helpful in reminding us all that sex/gender are much more complicated than most people think. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find an acknowledgment of that fact in an LA Times article about the incident. It begins:

"Despite what one might think, it is not always easy to tell who is male and who is female."

The article then goes on to discuss genetic, chromosomal, and hormonal conditions that can lead to instances where chromosomes, appearance, and hormones do not "match up."

I have written about this before:

"A myriad of hormonal, anatomical, and chromosomal conditions exist that shed light on the inaccuracy and insufficiency of the sex binary. I know that many people believe that XY Anatomical Males constitute the Real Male, XX Anatomical Females constitute the Real Female, and those who do not fall neatly into one of these two categories are errors. Yet, aside from the rudeness of suggesting that some people are mistakes, in reality, I think it is worth exploring whether it's even accurate to say that these Others are flawed males and flawed females. What if, instead, it is more accurate to say that all people exist along a gradation of sex and gender, and that some people are more 'gray' than others? What if, biological sex and gender are often, but not always, concordant?"

That is all a long way of saying that it's not accurate to think of humanity as dual. We aren't disparate beings who fit into either a Male box or Female one. While it may please our categorizing minds to conceptualize humanity in such a way, nature is messier than that. Working in combination with our appearances, chromosomes, hormones, anatomy, brains, and physiology we all exist somewhere on a gradation of sex.

If I may use an analogy here, sex in humans is sort of like a bag of Skittles (tm). Some people will insist that we are all either yellow ones or red ones. (Maybe because they think those are the tastiest, who knows). And, despite the observable reality that blue, green, orange, and purple ones also exist, we are still all placed in categories of "red" or "yellow" anyway.

I'm not suggesting we should formally acknowledge a "third" sex. Rather, I'm saying we should take the much more radical step of questioning all "self-evident truths" regarding sex and gender.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Newsflash: Disliking Rape Jokes = Hating Men!

The other day, a commenter here, Sarah, relayed her experience of requesting someone in another internet forum to stop gratuitously throwing around the word "rape." Some people, you see, overuse the word "rape" to refer to all sorts circumstances that don't actually involve sexual assault. For instance, I remember back when I was in college, some students would regularly bemoan the difficultly of a particular exam and, laughing, say that "the professor just raped" them. Rush Limbaugh, for instance, when criticizing Obama shows on almost bizarre fixation on "libs" bending him over and, well, you know....

There are several problem with using the word "rape" to refer to things that are not, actually, rape and I think that these issues are what Sarah was getting at when she suggested other people stop using the word. For one, like the oft over-used Hitler/Nazi analogy, using the word "rape" in situations that are not at all actually as bad as sexual assault robs valid comparisons of their impact. Further, it lessens the horribleness of, the Really Bad Thing, like rape that is being used as the standard-bearer of all that is bad. Personally, whenever I hear someone say that Da Bears got "raped" by such-and-such latest football team, all I can think is... Oh? Really? Not to be a party pooper but I actually don't think losing a football game is very much at all like being sexually assaulted.

People are generally free, of course, to say whatever they want to say, yet most civil people will at least consider reasons why maybe they shouldn't say certain words. Unfortunately, when Sarah expressed her concern about the word "rape," those who were using the word immediately reacted by asking her if she hated men.

I get this a lot.

Whether I'm criticizing "gender neutral pronouns" that aren't really gender neutral at all, reminding people that gay men are not the only "gay people" who exist, or complaining about the fact that nearly every time I go for a run a man yells some sort of catcall at me, it is generally assumed that I do not like men very much.

I'm still trying to answer why it is such a knee-jerk reaction to accuse a woman who distinguishes herself from a doormat of "hating men." I think much of it has to do with the fact that I question male entitlement. And, for many (most?) men, if a woman consciously chooses not to indulge male entitlement, it can only be because she hates men, and not because she believes that women are full human beings just like how men are.

Then, I think part of the man-hating myth comes from the fact that feminism forces men to confront their own privileges. Confronting our privileges can be uncomfortable. It's supposed to be. We like thinking that we've gotten everything in our lives by Hard Work after having Pulled Ourselves Up From Our Bootstraps. In our blissful thinking, we want to continue thinking we hit a triple, when in reality we were born on third base. And so, far too many men personalize feminism. Not understanding that having privilege doesn't make a person "bad," they associate their discomfort with those who have caused it. Feminists. Feminists make them feel badly about themselves, and so, clearly, feminists hate them.

I know that at this point, if my article hasn't already been chalked up to another "screed" by a "know-nothing feminist," a man will come here and quote Andrea Dworkin or Valeria Solanis in order to "prove" that all feminists hate men.

To which, I can only say this.

If you want to know what a feminist woman thinks about men, you should probably just ask her.

And then, what Melissa said:

"No, I don't hate men.

It would, however, be fair to say that I don't easily trust them.

My mistrust is not, as one might expect, primarily a result of the violent acts done on my body, nor the vicious humiliations done to my dignity. It is, instead, born of the multitude of mundane betrayals that mark my every relationship with a man—the casual rape joke, the use of a female slur, the careless demonization of the feminine in everyday conversation, the accusations of overreaction, the eyerolling and exasperated sighs in response to polite requests to please not use misogynist epithets in my presence or to please use non-gendered language ("humankind")....

...I hope those men will hear me when I say, again, I do not hate you. I mistrust you. You can tell yourselves that's a problem with me, some inherent flaw, some evidence that I am fucked up and broken and weird; you can choose to believe that the women in your lives are nothing like me.

Or you can be vigilant, can make yourselves trustworthy. Every day.

Just in case they're more like me than you think."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Department of Justice Files Another DOMA Brief

Earlier this week, the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) filed another brief in the case that is challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of federal benefits, protections, and privileges. The brief, while still supporting DOMA, takes a different tone than the brief the DOJ filed back in June.

For instance, of the Obama Administration has stated:

"With respect to the merits, this Administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal. Consistent with the rule of law, however, the Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the Department disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here."

Well, it's definitely a step in the right direction. Unlike the June brief, which argued that DOMA didn't discriminate against gay men and lesbians because gay men and lesbians were just as free as anybody else to marry (people of the opposite sex of course!), the Obama Administration now acknowledges that DOMA is indeed discriminatory. Furthermore, the brief explicitly rejects the asinine "responsible procreation" argument, noting that the government does not have enough of an interest in encouraging procreation to be able to limit marriage to heterosexual couples, especially given the fact that heterosexual couples unable or unwilling to procreate are allowed to marry.

Moving on, I'm not going to delve into the brief's specific constitutional arguments surrounding DOMA. Reasonable arguments can be and often are made both for and against the constitutionality of the law. Ultimately, the outcome will depend moreso on the persuasiveness of the arguments presented working in combination with the arbiter's ideology, politics, and beliefs regarding how the constitution should be interpreted. Given that there are usually enough "appropriate rules and precedents" to render an opinion on either side of an issue that accords with "tradition and professional expertise," it is farcical to believe, as many people nonetheless do, that judges engage in Objective Truthfinding by merely Applying the Law to the Case At Hand.

Instead, I'm going to say this. If heterosexual people don't want their tax dollars going towards providing LGBT families the rights, privileges, and benefits that the marital status conveys, at least give us a tax break for subsidizing their relationships, families, promiscuities, and social security benefits.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Human Rights Watch Report Documents Violence Against Gay Men in Iraq

The Human Rights Watch has issued a report on the murder and torture of gay men in Iraq. Within this report are graphic descriptions of horrific violence. To sum it up, for at least the past 5 years several militias have been "exterminating" men who have sex with other men, men who are believed to have sex with other men, or men who are insufficiently "masculine." The state, according to the report, has perpetuated this violence by prosecuting and abusing men suspected of engaging in sex with other men.

I'd like to highlight several aspects of this report.

First, the report explains the gender-based violence by referring to sociologist Stanley Cohen's theory positing that during times of change and uncertainty, societies tend to undergo periods of moral panic. People create scapegoats on which to blame societal stressors. Having developed these scapegoats, the dominant group divides society in to two groups, those who belong, and those who do not.

In Iraq's case, the root cause of social ills is perceived as a masculinity crisis that is evidenced by the existence of gay and/or "effeminate" men. From the report:

"Friday sermons at Shi'ite mosques, particularly those associated with al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army, began condemning an intractable 'effeminacy' among men in early 2009....Almost every week they include something on this in their sermons now. The panic and the killing focus as much on how one looks and dresses-whether or not men seem 'masculine' enough-as on imputations about what ones does in bed. Moreover, in a country plunged into poverty over the last twenty years, resentments around class intertwine with rigid requirements about gender. Many people stressed to us that decadence-not just femininity but an aura of possessions or privilege-is one of the stereotypes about the 'third sex.'"

Sadly, here we see two characteristics that humans have used throughout history to construct deviant outgroups and, then, to justify the extermination of them. One, we see a dominant group taking notice of human difference- namely, of "effeminacy" in men- and marking it with a badge of inferiority and incredible danger. Two, the dominant group then creates a stereotype that members of this dangers group are powerful and/or wealthy. In times of turmoil, this leads to resentment among the masses, who have it hard.

As seen in Iraq and elsewhere, the idea that a deviant Other has the power to destroy society is used to justify the oppression and extermination of the Other.

Secondly, I would like to see more of an exploration as to the role that religion has played in the violence perpetuated against gay and "effeminate" men. I think that whenever religion is involved in perpetuating violence and injustice it becomes a severe impediment to stopping that violence and injustice. To some extent, the situation in Iraq is an extreme exaggeration of anti-gay sentiments here in the US. Statements regarding "traditional values" and notions of Real Masculinity reverberate indistinguishably between our so-called Christian Nation and the Cradle of Islam.

If efforts to combat these gender-based killings in Iraq are undertaken, I have no doubt that the religionists in Iraq would cry religious persecution. That's just how fundamentalists roll. They invoke their own "persecution" to justify their continued persecution of others. As one man interviewed explained, "the killing operations are not crimes since they fall under the jurisdiction of a religious fatwa." Murdering fags is just their "religion." How dare anyone insist they stop and, in the process, commit religious persecution.

That being said, I don't know enough about Islam to know whether it actually does justify the murder of gay men. My point here is that, just like how people in the US use Christianity to justify their oppression of LGBT people, some in Iraq are using Islam to justify violence against non-gender-conforming men.

Lastly, I have much compassion for the plight of gay and "non-masculine" men in Iraq; and accordingly, I think the root causes of this gender-based violence need to be explored. I think that a large part of the mistreatment of these men is the instability brought about by the US invasion of Iraq. The BBC ran a report recently documenting how gay Iraqis fared better under Saddam Hussein prior to the US invasion. That being said, I also think the instability is compounded by misogyny, deeply-ingrained sexism, and the subordinate status of women. Much homophobia and violence directed at gay and "effeminate" men is, at its core, based on the conflation of these nonconforming men with women. And, as the authors of the report note, "Fear of 'feminized' men reveals only hatred of women."

Thus, I do not think one can separate the treatment of women from the treatment of gay/"effeminate" men. Addressing violence directed at one of these groups must also address violence directed at the other. Unfortunately, most NGOs working in Iraq have only focused on "political patterns of attacks on men." And, while this report acknowledges that violence against women is "a serious crisis in Iraq" that "state authorities have ignored," I find it ironic that this report has given us another report that, well, focuses on men. As for women who might fall in love with and have relationships with women, I have no doubt that they exist in Iraq. Yet, as the report notes, due to "pressures to marry and conform," these women are made doubly invisible.

In any event, I'm *sure* anti-gay organizations, bloggers, and individuals in the US will condemn these anti-gay killings right away.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1. Feminists Like Men More than Non-Feminists Do

No matter how untrue, some memes never die. I'm referring to, of course, asinine stereotypes about feminists. Anti-feminists like to perpetuate the idea that all feminists are ugly, man-hating, lesbian bull-dykes. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being ugly or lesbian, many feminists actually do take issue with the man-hating label. The "man-hating" stereotype continues mostly because it benefits anti-feminists. It makes Men Opposed to Feminism feel not like the victimizers they are, but like victims.

Because feminism often takes men out of the centered norm they've been comfortable sitting for hundreds (thousands?) of years, some men undoubtedly do feel somewhat "attacked" by feminism and/or feminists. Yet, by accusing feminists of hating men, they are able to single-handedly shift the focus, once again, back onto men. Nothing a feminist or a woman says about her experience in the world can be valid, the story goes, she's just saying those things because She Hates Men.

Yet, what if Real Scientific evidence found that feminists don't really hate men?

Via the f word blog, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Houston (n=488) found that feminists reported less hostility towards men than non-feminists. And:

"Our work finds that, indeed, non-feminists believe in traditional gender roles such as men being breadwinners and women being caregivers. At the same time, these non-feminists actually appear to resent the confines of the traditional roles they advocate, which presents a paradox for women and men in traditional heterosexual relationships.... Traditional women have more investment in traditional gender roles in which they are both dependent on men and frustrated and subordinated by male dominance."

I am eagerly awaiting a response from the Ladies Against Feminism. Come on ladies, tell us how you really feel about the gents.

2. Leaving Out Important Details

Previously, I wrote about mass murderer George Sodini's misogyny and that his entitlement towards the bodies of women seemingly justified, at least in his mind, targeting random women to murder. In light of the fact that his rampage was a gender-based hate crime, I found the focus of this Salt Lake City Tribute headline to be... strange:

"Diary of madman conveys racial hatred"


Yet, most of his diary conveyed a hatred of, resentment of, and entitlement to women- you know, the members of the class he murdered. It is in these small details that violence against women that is based on their womanhood is marginalized. It feeds into the larger narrative that says violence against women is not actually widespread, unlike Bad Things like racial hatred. Yes, racism is bad and pervasive, but in the context of an anti-woman hate crime, is it appropriate to take the focus off the fact that this guy really hated women and instead highlight his somewhat less relevant racial hatred?

It's sort of like the headline is telling us that Sodini's misogyny, by itself, wasn't enough to tip him into Bad Guy territory. Like, it had to assure us all that he had racial hatred, the evilness of which speaks for itself.

3. Set-Asides For Gay Businesses?

Chicago's only openly-gay Alderman tom Tunney re-opened a debate as to whether the city should establish contract set-asides for businesses owned by LGBT people.

While my mind isn't made up on this issue, I lean towards opposing this new set-aside. For one, the city, like many throughout the nation, already has a construction contract set-aside for businesses owned by minorities and women. Thus, as Tunney has acknowledged, "the perception is this would only enhance gay white males." I think that's a valid point, yet that perception is flawed because it overlooks transgender people. Currently, there is no set-aside for transgender men or women, per se. Moreso than gay white men, I think it's reasonable to assume that transgender people on average might have more issues as far as access to credit, business loans, and contracts go.

But, that's just an assumption. So, I think the city's taking the right step in looking into research regarding "quantifiable discrimination in terms of access to credit and financial issues."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Visit to the Creation "Museum"

As someone who will perhaps forever be intrigued by reality-deniers, I would love, love, love to visit the Creation Museum. This "Museum," according to Wikipedia (you can easily find its website via the Google if you so wish), "presents an account of the origins of the universe, life, mankind, and man's early history according to a literal reading of the Book of Genesis."

Although I haven't been there (yet!) I imagine it is as sort of the institutional embodiment of people sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes, and singing karaoke to Celine Dion under the mistaken impression that their version of the "Power of Love" and is just like the Real Thing.

By that I only only mean that creationists tend to have an odd love-hate relationship with Real Science. On the one hand, they reject it and fail to understand it, but on the other hand they sometimes try to pretend that creationism is, actually, Real Science. And now, a Real Science with a Real Museum and Everything!

Fortunately for me, because I won't be in the vicinity of the "Museum" anytime soon, ScienceBlogger and biologist PZ Myers recently visited and recounted his experience at the Creation Museum. He recounts why creationists just don't get it. In a nutshell, their core premise is that scientists and creationists are engaged in pretty much the same fact-finding conclusion-drawing endeavor. They believe that scientists and biblical literalists look at the "same facts" and, by merely interpreting these facts differently, come to hold "different views" sort of like how sometimes Real Scientists hold different views from one another. Myers writes:

"Their first big exhibit is a perfect example of the principle in action. It's a model of a dinosaur dig, with two men working away at excavating the bones. There is a video accompanying it in which the two views are presented. The younger Asian fellow in front says, and I paraphrase, 'This animal died about a hundred million years ago. Its body dried in the sun for several days before being slowly buried under layers of sediment in a local flood.' Then the avuncular creationist says, 'I see the same bones, but I believe this dinosaur was killed suddenly about 4400 years ago in a huge global flood, which buried it deeply all at once.' And then he goes on to explain that see, they have the very same evidence, but he understands it in the light of God's word.

It is a profoundly dishonest display. No, they are not using the same evidence: the creationist is ignoring all but the most superficial appearances. The scientist says a few details about this particular dinosaur, but what Ken Ham hides is that every statement would have a large body of evidence in its support. This isn't two guys stating their mere beliefs in a's one guy, the creationist, closing his eyes to the evidence and spouting Biblical gibberish, and one scientist stating the conclusions of substantial investigations."

Logically, a museum devoted to creationism just doesn't make much sense given that the worldview is Reality Challenged. It rejects tangible evidence that exists in the reality-based world in favor of the so-called Word of God. Given that "God's Word" is the only "evidence" creationists have to support their worldview, this museum seems to really be a Life-Size Diorama of the Bible.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Review: The Gospel of Inclusion

I first heard about Bishop Carlton Pearson on a This American Life segment entitled "Heretics." Within this segment, Pearson, a former Pentecostal Bishop, recounted his moving experience of coming to the "heretical" (to Pentecostals anyway) conclusions that (a) Hell does not exist and (b) all people are saved, even those who are not Christians. After coming to these conclusions, which he believes were revelations from god, the Pentecostal community branded his beliefs heretical.

That is what his book, The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching Beyond Religious Fundamentalism to the True Love of God and Self, is about.

1) The Gospel of Inclusion

In a nutshell, Pearson's Gospel of Inclusion is essentially that all of humanity is already saved because when Jesus died on the cross, he "achieved what He set out to achieve: total salvation" (5). Thus, the purpose of ministry "is to awaken people to the extraordinary love and hope of that truth- to become not necessarily Christian but Christ-like in bringing humankind together as one in spiritual consciousness" (Ibid.).

Why does Pearson want to spread this message? Well, first note the distinction he makes between becoming a Christian versus becoming Christ-like. The latter, becoming Christ-like- is much more important than the former. Many non-Christians are well aware of the fact that being a Christian is no guarantee that a person is Christ-like, and not being a Christian is no guarantee that a person is not.

In fact, Pearson finds that "a pompous, poisonous, subculture" flourishes in modern organized religion (17). It is "an insult to Divinity and humankind" (18). It has "become an armed front with two factions facing off: 'we,' the true believers, and 'they,' everyone else (who are all obviously bound for hell. This lends 'we' a sense of superiority, but also populates the world with enemies and casts believers as self-appointed soldiers in the army of the Lord" (18-19).

As someone who tends to hold Ghandi's view of the state of modern Christianity ("I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."), both the Gospel of Inclusion and Pearson's critique of modern Christianity are highly resonating. I am sure many non-Christians would agree. It is divisive, insulting (to god and to humanity), and arrogant for Christians to regularly inform other humans that the only way not to burn in "Hell" for all of eternity is to believe exactly as they believe about Jesus.

And, at this point, I have to give Pearson enormous credit for his moral courage in preaching his Gospel of Inclusion. In general, within Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism, the Bible is thought to be the inerrant, literal word of god and, as such, the devout are discouraged from doubting certain interpretations of that word. Beginning to question certain Biblical Truths is thought to mean that one's personal relationship with god is faltering. Oftentimes, questioning one facet of the Official Truth will knock the entire house of cards down. Pearson grew up in and was a rather successful bishop within this setting.

Christians expect those outside of the Christian community to criticize and question their faith. Yet when people who are or were respected insiders do the same, I think their words can be a bit more meaningful. The "attacks" are coming not from the so-called hostile, secular world, but from one of their own. And indeed, Pearson makes many cogent points about the petty, vengeful, all-too-human "God" that some Christian sects offer us and about the failings of the religion that is built around Christ.

And, Pearson has much to criticize with respect to the current state of fundamentalist religion in general, and fundamentalist Christianity in particular. He continues that it is an anti-intellectual movement that, because of its "unquestioning believers," is stagnating (26). Rather than adapting to changes in society and seeking relevance, religious leaders seek to dominate society by insisting that certain dogmas are "untouchable" and "sacred" (35). It has a "profound, unmerited victim consciousness" based on scripture that has been misinterpreted over the centuries (143). Because of John 15:18 in which Jesus says "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first," some Christians are taught early on that "the secular world would always hate [them,] and possibly persecute and torture [them], even to death (Ibid.). We see this in today's Christian Persecution Complex that insists every Holiday Season, for instance, that the secular world is victimizing Christians via the "War on Christmas."

But, perhaps worst of all, fundamentalist Christianity presents "God" as having "angry-god syndrome" and presents Jesus as a caricature of who he really was. An "infantile belief" common to many religions is that "man has the capacity to anger God, causing Him to throw a temper tantrum" and that manifests in some sort of natural disaster or eternal damnation to "hell" (90). Yet, would the most supreme of all deities truly be so unjust as to send billions of "his" creations to eternal torment, and would "he" even be worthy of worship if "he" did? "Maturity requires that Christians stop using fear tactics to force others into salvation" (146).

Further, Pearson maintains that "fewer people would reject Jesus were He presented closer to the way in which He presented Himself as He walked among men" (35). "Religion," he argues "has never treated Jesus as it should.... Religion seeks to replace the complex Jesus with a tailor-made Christ that reflects each denominations bigotries: rejection of science, domination of secular government by mean-spirited theocracies, hatred of homosexuals and other deviants, promoting war with the intent of bringing about the Second Coming, and other misappropriations" (238). Pearson argues that Jesus came, not to reinforce our human bigotries and failings, but to emphasize our connection with God.

Yet, continuing their mis-use of Jesus, Evangelical Christians teach us that unless we recognize Jesus as Savior, we will not be saved and will not go to heaven (124). Rather than being a message of love, the Evangelical message is one of, to paraphrase, "you better believe this, or else." Instead of this fearful, demeaning message, Pearson argues that Christians are supposed to be telling people not "how evil and wrong they are, but how loved they are by God" (159). That is, perhaps, the real truth of Jesus. Can you imagine how different our nation, and the world, would be if that was the message fundamentalists were telling us?

Taking all of Pearson's criticisms regarding fundamentalist Christianity together, I think they would account for the majority of the reasons why so many people consider themselves to be atheist, agnostic, or otherwise non-Christian. Devout Christians seeking to understand why so many people become Godless "heathens" would do well to understand that people reject religion moreso because of organized religion's failings, rather than their own personal ones.

2) My Criticisms

While I appreciate Pearson's moral courage, his inclusive doctrine, and his criticisms of fundamentalist religion, I do have two main critiques of his book.

For one, as one who rejects the divinity of Jesus, it is almost offensive for someone to benevolently insist that the Real Truth is that Jesus died for everyone. And, Pearson is quite specific in his belief that "Jesus Christ (not Christianity) is the only way to God in redemption" (83). It is a kind thought, that Jesus has already saved us all. But ultimately I find Pearson's reliance on scripture to support his belief as persuasive as the version in which only Christians can go to "Heaven," which is to say, not very. I share Pearson's belief that no human will burn in this thing called "hell" for all of eternity, but I do not believe that it is because of Jesus.

I'm not opposed to Jesus, per se, I just foresee some of the same divisions cropping up when people insist that one historical figure is to be renowned as Savior over another, given that such things are ultimately not subject to verification. Couldn't we save ourselves so much pain by (a) acknowledging that the Bible is not an authoritative account of the One True Savior to many people in the world and (b) that no matter how much a person may believe otherwise, our shared reality is that we must co-exist within a framework of disagreement?

Secondly, I find his book about inclusion to be, ironically, exclusive. Many of you who read my blog regularly probably know that I am not a fan of the "generic he" to refer to all of humanity nor of religions that gender god as male. Unfortunately, Pearson does both in his book, regularly referring to humanity as "man" and to god as "he." At one point, he even in confides in us as "One Adam to Another," even though Eve also played a pretty prominent role in the Garden of Eden myth (243). Indeed,it has been her role in the myth that Paul of the New Testament used to justify the "full submission" of women. I think, at least on that point, that we "Eves" deserve a shout-out of our very own that goes beyond being subsumed within "Adam."

To be fair, Pearson briefly devotes one page to acknowledging the "cultural chauvinism" and "gender bias" within our culture that genders "God" as male. Specifically, he recognizes that "[n]early every reference to God in the Hebrew Bible is plural" suggesting that God might more accurately be conceived as "The Gods, or Heavenly Parents" (228). Unfortunately, Pearson fails to correct his own gender bias in the book which, I believe, serves to alienate and exclude half of humanity from his Gospel of Inclusion.

Perhaps recognizing the femininity of this thing called "God" and the femaleness of half of humanity is ultimately even too heretical for a heretic.

Nonetheless, as a message to Evangelicals and other fundamentalists, this is an important book with a message they truly need to hear if their religions are to survive and retain relevancy. As an end point, Pearson's Gospel of Inclusion doesn't suffice for me personally. Religious beliefs that effectively exclude half of humanity from the divine and continue to refer to humanity as "man" are inappropriate and unacceptable from those who should (and who deep-down probably do) know better. Give me a spirituality that (a) doesn't insist on Jesus as the literal Savior of the world and (b) either completely de-genders "god" or defines it in terms of male and female, and you will have shown me something worthy of my devotion.

Odds 'N Ends

1) Frenetic Swine Flu Article of the Week

From the current Time magazine, in big, bold type that takes up half of an entire page in the print version (the online version I've linked to is different):

"More than 2 billion people worldwide could get it. Hundreds of schools may shut down. And 160 million Americans will need to be vaccinated- twice."

Then, in teeny tiny print on the 3rd page of the article, the author informs us not to panic because "overreaction- individually or as a country- will only make it worse."

Now Time, don't be silly. Why on earth would anyone feel the need to overreact?

2) Progressive Are Going Nowhere?

Via truthdig, Chris Hedges argues that America has not and will not change under the Obama Administration. His money quote, in arguing against our current two-party system:

"The Liberty Party, which fought slavery, the suffragists who battled for women’s rights, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement knew that the question was not how do we get good people to rule—those attracted to power tend to be venal mediocrities—but how do we limit the damage the powerful do to us."

In believing that the Democrats and the Republicans are So Very Different from each other, we the people remain politically passive.

3) Recognizing Sex-Based Hate Crimes

At the Huffington Post, Louise Marie Roth argues that the George Sodini's murderous rampage was a hate crime against women.

I agree.

Current federal hate crimes laws race, color, religion, and national origin. While much of the focus on the pending Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act ("Matthew Shepard Act") has been on protections of the LGBT community, this new law would give the Department of Justice the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability in addition to the already-protected classes of race, color, religion, and national origin.

I have reservations as to whether hate crimes legislation actually deter hate crimes, but I think it's important to (a) acknowledge that gender-based hate crimes do occur and (b) to label them as such given the degree to which violence against women has been normalized.

And also, it sort of makes one wonder why anti-gays are so opposed to the Matthew Shepard Act, and so opposed that they lie about it!, since it also seeks to protect, not only LGBT people, but also heterosexual women (and men) from bias-motivated violence.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

APA Says Reparative Therapy Unlike to Work, Anti-Gays Fail to Care

The American Psychological Association (APA), recently issued a report entitled "Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation," (PDF) which is a "systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts." This review "concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm."

Last week, we saw that the American Bar Association came out in opposition to part of the Defense of Marriage Act. Within that article, I noted "what professional organizations say about marriage equality and LGBT rights holds little sway in the minds of those whose minds are already turned against the Gay Agenda." Some people are so convinced that experts are "politically motivated" or unduly influenced by the "homosexual lobby," that no amount of expert testimony will convince them that homosexuality is anything other than wrong, immoral, unhealthy, dangerous, and all-around evil.

This meme of the Incredible Power of the Gay is one that professional "marriage defenders" perpetuate in order to justify the continued mistreatment and oppression of LGBT people. LGBT people cannot be truly oppressed, they argue, because the "homosexual lobby" is rich, powerful, and able to exert disproportionate amounts of influence on society.

For instance, Christian "news" source LifeSiteNews ran an article a few years ago about some Dr.* who wrote a book outlining "the influence of gay organizations on the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, which has lead [sic] them to abandon scientific accuracy and authentic research in order to support the political goals of the homosexual community." (*Educated folk with graduate degrees are acceptable to anti-gays as long as they hold anti-gay views. Pro-gay educated folk, however, are obviously "Elitists" who are tainted by the radical, leftist, Marxist ideology that permeates the universities.)

However, in response to the APA's new document regarding sexual orientation "therapy," the National Association for Therapy and Research of Homosexuality (NARTH)
appears to do exactly what anti-gays accuse the Gay Lobby of doing- namely, to urge professional organizations to abandon scientific accuracy and authentic research in order to support NARTH's political goals. Specifically, NARTH has blasted the APA report for a failure to reflect "ideological diversity."

Those who believe homosexuality to be a mental disorder, you will find, often speak out of both sides of their mouths. Out of one side, they claim to support scientific inquiry yet, when studies don't conform to their political beliefs, they complain that scientific evidence fails to represent their ideology. Within such an argument, I think there is a very real confusion about the concepts of science and truth. Namely, while we are all entitled to our opinions, we are not all entitled to our own facts. Too often, anti-gay ideologues mistake their opinions for fact or worse, they demand the reality-based world to treat their opinions as facts. And, if we don't, they cry religious, political, or ideological persecution.

This NARTH response further accuses the "activist" APA task force of ignoring certain studies that would lead to a different conclusion about sexual orientation change.

On that note, let's back up and take a look at the APA's new document regarding sexual orientation "therapy." For starters, the APA established a Task Force in 2007 to review and update the "Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation (APA 1998)," to generate a report discussing the appropriate applications of various therapeutic interventions, and to inform APA's response to groups that promote to treatment to change a person's sexual orientation.

To do this, the task force reviewed 83 peer-reviewed journal articles in English from 1960 to 2007 and, importantly, decided which articles to review prior to actually reviewing them. The basis for exclusion was whether a study had "serious methodological problems" that did "not meet the minimal standards for evaluating psychological treatments, including efforts to change sexual orientation, are effective." Furthermore, the task force writes:

"In our review, we considered only peer-reviewed research, in keeping with current standards for conducting scientific reviews (see Khan, Kunz, Kleijnen,
& Antes, 2003), which exclude the grey literature and lay material."

Grey literature is "any publication in any format published outside of peer-reviewed scientific journals." So, it's not so much that the APA task force excluded studies tainted by a certain ideology, but rather because some studies were rejected because they have not been subjected to formal scrutiny by an independent panel of scholarly or scientific peers. In fact, despite reparative therapy advocate Joseph Nicolosi's claim that the APA review "overlooked years of clinical research that shows sexual orientation is changeable through therapy," his own name and research appears in the APA's document a whopping 60 times. If other studies by "reparative therapists" were "overlooked," it is because they were not included in peer-reviewed scientific journals or because they had "serious methodological problems."

In addition, the task force read comments and materials submitted from "the public, professionals, and other organizations" including those who were nominated but not chosen to be on the task force.

So, here again, I think we are seeing a confusion about truth and opinion. Some anti-gay ideologues feel entitled have their views presented as Scientific Truth, not because their views actually are scientific truth, but because their views are different. If their opinions don't meet scientific standards, they feel that those who live more reality-based lives are persecuting them. They feel that the world is conspiring against them.

And, I suppose, in a way the world- or reality anyway- is.

Despite the weight of peer-reviewed journal literature that counters their anti-gay ideology, those whose Oppose-Everything-Gay Lenses are lasered into their eyes will continue insisting that gay people can and should abandon their choice of homosexuality and instead "opt" for the heterosexual lifestyle. They will do so even though a task force of experts has found that "enduring change to one's sexual orientation was unlikely," that "clients perceived a benefit when offered interventions that emphasize acceptance, support, and recognition of important values and concerns," and that "experiences of felt stigma... played a role in creating distress in individuals."


Because even though the anti-gay idealogue accuses LGBT people and allies of sacrificing Truth for a radical political agenda, what they are really doing is offering us yet another Weapon of Mass Projection. It is that same selfish, anti-gay worldview that enables people to insist that children are better of being raised in orphanages than by same-sex couples. It is part of a larger busy-body movement that, despite all of their protestations about supposedly not caring about what we do in our own bedrooms, seeks to nonetheless re-pathologize what we do in our bedrooms.


Because they can.

Monday, August 10, 2009

(Not So) Breaking News: Some Dudez Really Do Hate Women!

Perhaps you've heard by now that last week a man, George Sodini, walked into a gym, opened fire on an aerobics class, murdered 3 women, and injured 9 before killing himself. Because of rants in his online diary and other evidence, police believe that he hated women and was targeting them specifically.

I read through his writings and they are indeed sad and disturbing on many levels. In his diary, Sodini presents himself as an isolated loner who hadn't had sex in almost 20 years, as someone whose brother made fun of him in front of his girlfriends when he was younger, and who now can't understand why he hasn't had a girlfriend since 1984. He writes that he dresses "good," is "clean-shaven," "bathes" and yet "30 million women" have rejected him over the years. Throughout the months preceding his Big Plan (of murdering women), he repeatedly refers to his unbearable loneliness and how Not Fun his life is because he has no friends and no girlfriend.

His writings evidence an anti-social sense of entitlement about his obsessive desire to have a woman of his very own. Indeed, it wasn't so much a real girlfriend with thoughts, feelings, and wants of her own that he wanted, for he never talked about personality traits he found interesting in potential girlfriends. But rather, he just wanted a woman. Of his own. At his side. To reassure himself and everyone else that he was a Real Man. He wanted a woman like, as blogger Jeff Fecke observes, "the way some people want a really sweet computer, the way others want a brand new car. His desire was not for a person, but for a thing, an object." As Dan Savage has documented, he was part of the "pick-up artist"/"seduction" community, a community revolving around a concept so creepy and disturbing I long for last week when I didn't even know such a thing existed. The title of a book found at his house? Date Young Women: For Men Over 35. Because every Alpha Male (or wannabe) deserves a Pretty Young Thang on his arm.

And thus, perhaps due to deep-seated hatred/fear of women, mental illness, and/or low self-esteem, he seems to have based almost his entire self-worth on the fact that he hadn't had sex in years and that he didn't have a woman. Yet, other than the fact that Sodini murdered 3 women, I don't think his thoughts regarding his sense of entitlement to a Woman-Thingy are horribly uncommon. And certainly, we all have our moments where we feel lonely, stupid, and alienated from other people. That's just part of the human condition. What I have more trouble understanding is why someone who feels those human emotions that all of us feel at times uses them to hatch and then carry out a murder spree.

And then I went ahead and read what people on the internets were saying.

See, as I was doing research to write this blog post I came across the even more disturbing phenomenon of men who lauded, justified, and/or condoned Sodini's violence. Because I don't want to link to certain sites and direct doodz who hate and possibly condone the murder of women directly to this Lady Blog of mine, I am going to link to a post by Ampersand, of Alas, A Blog, who has compiled some of the MRA and anti-feminist reactions to this murder.

One guy calls Sodini an "MRA hero" and gives his violence "kudos." Many blame this incident on feminism and the "fact" that men are treated much worse in society than are women. Many refer to this crime as the natural "consequences" of women rejecting men and denying them sex because, after all, "every man DOES deserve to get laid."

So ya'll, after throwing up a little in my mouth, I have to admit that reading these diatribes made me a little teensy bit more of a lesbian. I didn't think that was possible, but hey, you learn something new every day. Many feminists know that many men have a sense of entitlement when it comes to women's bodies and sexuality. When women reject men, the male sense of entitlement leads to unbelievable resentment and, in some cases, hatred of women. This is not news. Ampersand puts it quite well, actually:

"Mass violence is what’s unusual about Sodini, not his sense of entitlement to sex with attractive women, nor his resentful misogyny."

Visit any MRA or "anti-misandry" site and you will see the shockingly large numbers of heterosexual men raging within their homosocial forum about the overall cunti-ness of women.

So, am I surprised that a Nice Normal Poor Rejected Guy snapped and decided to commit an act of anti-woman terrorism? Nope. No way. The entitlement towards women's bodies waters the seeds of that violence every single day in a world in which "men's worst fear is that women will laugh at them [and] women's worst fear is that men will kill them."

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Long Way to Go, Part II

This post is a continuation of yesterday's post examining how some of those with very strong negative opinions about LGBT people demonstrate an ignorance of the other side's arguments, an inability to concede that the other side has good reasons of its own for believing what it believes, and how so few anti-gay individuals condemn the overt anti-gay animus of those on their own side.

Blogger Euripides, who has already made clear he is not interested in dialogue at his "Self-Evident Truths" [sic] site, has seemed to have attracted a virulent element to his anti-gay, conservative blog. Whereas some anti-gay bloggers at least refrain from and prohibit calling gay people "faggots" and other slurs at their sites, a commenter at Euripides' blog by the name of "LL" recently took a stab at explaining why the homosexualists lost Proposition 8:

"Two men sucking face in front of a Mormon temple is an example of the decorum demonstrated by faggots throughout California - which is one reason they lost Prop 8."

Another commenter expressed his visceral disgust at the thought of two men kissing.

I first want to apologize for re-posting this abusive commentary here. As people who live within a heterosexist society, we have all heard hateful words such as these countless times. All LGBT people have some degree of internalized homophobia within us and we all already know that many people are disgusted by "faggots." Furthermore, it is certainly not my intent for the hateful words of these men to feed into the justified anger that many in the LGBT community feel in response to such hatred. I think it can be helpful to remember that people who hold so much hatred in their hearts only say what they say because they are suffering in a serious way. Those who are consumed by hatred and disgust of gay people are perhaps living in a hell of their own making. While we stand up to their abuse, they deserve to be on the receiving end of our compassion, rather than our anger.

Standing up to homophobic abuse in a non-hateful way is important because, while I do not believe everyone who opposes LGBT rights is a hater, I do think that many people are private haters who just don't have the courage to come out and publicly call gay men "faggots." Those who do so, and do so without condemnation from those on their own side, demonstrate that anti-gay hatred is still an acceptable "argument" in the debate about LGBT rights. You will notice, after all, that neither Euripides himself, nor any other anti-gay commenter at his site, called the men out for their blatant anti-gay animus nor even made note of the slur.

Many people within the anti-gay movement are very good at disguising their more visceral reactions and hatred of LGBT people. While the words of these men are undoubtedly hurtful to many people, I at least have to give them props for having the courage to say what they really think about gay people.

It reminds me that often times we really are dealing with hatred, despite all of the protestations to the contrary.

Furthermore, when acts of anti-gay terrorism and violence occur, it is rare to see anti-gay individuals, bloggers, or organizations condemn or even acknowledge such acts. Recently, for instance, a masked gunman stormed into the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association building killing two people and wounding 15 others in a room where gay youth were holding a support group meeting.

The Box Turtle Bulletin, which has been providing ample coverage of this incident, has noted that while Israel's President, Prime Minister, and many Israelis have condemned the attack, the anti-gay industry has mostly either remained silent or has issued qualified statements that the violence has "saddened" them while simultaneously blustering about the "deviance of homosexuality." Why can't these people ever just issue a blanket statement that murder is wrong and leave it at that? Why the insensitive need to also add in those hurtful jabs about homosexuality and those hyper-defensive protestations about their own lack of any wrongdoing?

I certainly notice a contrast to events in which anti-gay individuals or organizations are on the receiving end of real or imagined anger or violence. For instance, whereas many LGBT bloggers (myself included) blasted Perez Hilton's sexist, asinine treatment of Carrie Prejean, "marriage defenders" have grossly exaggerated the incident as further proof of how the Powerful Gay Agenda Has Gone Too Far and, trapped in their insularity, spread the message that All Gay People Stand Together With Perez Hilton. Despite the fact that Prejean now has a lucrative career as Professional Victim, "marriage defenders" view the Poor Beauty Queen as a martyr for the cause.

Then, of course, when the LGBT community had the gall to protest the outcome of Proposition 8, many "marriage defenders" hyped up and exaggerated all real, imagined, and speculative threats and attacks against themselves and used them to justify their continued heterosexism. That, despite the fact that many LGBT individuals, bloggers, and organizations condemned real acts of violence. The message comes through from "marriage defenders" very clearly and it is not a message of "love." When psychopaths and bigots kill LGBT people, it's No Big Deal. When white powder is sent to a Mormon Church and the FBI calls any link between the powder and Proposition 8 "a stretch," the Angry Gay Mobs are acting like terrorists again and all advancement toward equality must be stopped!

Anti-gay advocates, so convinced that it is they who are victims and LGBT people who are victimizers, fail to hold themselves and those on their own side accountable for the many acts of aggression, both small and large, that they perpetuate against the LGBT community.

It is my hope, not that they come to agree with us about everything, but only that they begin to hold each other as accountable to basic standards of decency, honesty, and civility as they hold LGBT people to. It would be a very good first step towards acting like the Christ so many of them claim to revere.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Long Way To Go, Part I

In perusing some anti-gay blogs recently, I was reminded as to why I so often find the marriage equality debate to be tiresome. Namely, I have encountered so many people who hold very strong negative opinions about LGBT people and who also demonstrate an utter ignorance of the other side's arguments, an inability to concede that the other side has good reasons of its own for believing what it believes, an unwillingness to engage in dialogue, an inability to engage in dialogue without acting like a petty paranoid psychopath, and the failure to condemn or even acknowledge the overt anti-gay animus of those on their own side.

This is the theme of my next two posts. (Part II can be found here). It's just my analysis and people are, of course, free to chime in, agree, disagree, or respond however they see fit.

1) Ignorance Is Bliss

Anti-gay group blog Opine Editorials seems to have found a new contributor. As with the rest of the "marriage defense" fellas over there, who tend to bloviate more from their guts than from expertise in any field relevant to the debate, I am less than impressed with the reasoning of new dude "Roberto."

It's not so much that I think one has to be an "expert" (whatever that even means) to write logically and well about this issue. It's more that I think a person, on any side of any debate, should not be overly infatuated with his or her own quotidian "common sense." Mistaking their own self-evident truths opinions, prejudices, and biases for Universal Truth, many people authoritatively and confidently reject the testimony of experts and the weight of scientific evidence that goes against their worldview. Using confirmation bias, many "marriage defenders" believe that studies always show that they are pretty much right about everything. Or else the study is biased and probably forged by a homosexualist.

With respect to facts in the reality-based world, ignorance is bliss for many people. Ignorance allows people to have certainty in their own worldview. It means never having to re-think things because everything is already figured out. Most of all, the Bliss of Ignorance means not having to understand why issues are important to people who hold other opinions about things.

Roberto, blissfully begins:

"Those defending the traditional and historic understanding of marriage have often been asked by same-sex marriage advocates to provide one good reason why marriage should not include same-sex couples. There are more than just one good reason, some being that:"

After this awkward construction, he cites (without attribution?) one of these reasons. Namely, "[t]here is NO good reason to include same-sex couples. No one has ever provided a good reason why these should be included." That is, one good reason that marriage should not include same-sex couples is because there is no good reason to include same-sex couples.

Setting aside the amusing circularity of this "argument," it is worth noting that many of the more mainstream and well-known "marriage defenders" are willing to at least concede that marriage equality advocates have presented a good reason or two for marriage equality. One can, after all, acknowledge that same-sex couples present good reasons for inclusion while simultaneously believing that these good reasons are outweighed by other, "more important" good reasons for exclusion, such as the maintenance of the "traditional definition" of marriage.

When someone's vantage point in this debate is the complete failure to see any "good reasons" for what the other side is advocating (and includes the spattering of paranoid phrases like "homosexual lobby") it is a pretty good sign of one of two characteristics.

One, it could demonstrate a scarcity of oppositional dialogue with respect to this issue and, perhaps, that a person has not even sought to understand why same-sex couples believe marriage to be important to them. Given that many people can live their lives without knowing (or thinking they know) any LGBT people, the anti-gay mentality can become cult-like and warped in its isolation and repetition. Without outside views, the anti-gay individual often becomes stagnant and, worse, increasingly paranoid of this thing that is called the Homosexual Agenda.

When they try to present the "other side's" arguments, the presented arguments come off as ridiculous caricatures of what marriage equality advocates actually believe. When they post their "rebuttals" of these straw arguments, they believe themselves to be demolishing actual arguments when in reality they are only blowing down feeble scarecrows of their own construction. (Anti-feminists do this too. It's quite common).

Two, ignorance of any "good reason" for the other side's position can be a sign that someone is a newcomer to the conversation. Sometimes, strong convictions precede knowledge of the myriad arguments for and against whatever a person has these strong convictions about. In this case, the individual should actively seek out why the issue is important to these "Others." Merely listing what one believes to be the reasons the other side believes what it does, or parroting what those on one's own side have said, rarely suffices.

I know that not every LGBT rights advocate is completely versed in the argumentation of anti-gay advocates. And, I'm not saying that I am perfect or that LGBT advocates are perfect. When I entered this debate some years ago, I certainly could not understand why people would oppose something that seemed "self-evidently" unfair to same-sex couples. I quickly learned that "truths" that were self-evident to me, were not self-evident to all people. After having conversations with "marriage defenders" and reading the books, articles, and blogs of obscure and well-known "marriage defenders" I believe I now have a good grasp of most of the non-hate-based arguments against marriage equality.

Yet, it has been my experience that there is a scary insularity within the anti-gay blogging community. As opposed to many LGBT bloggers and allies, who tend to actively seek out, post about, and critique anti-gay writings and arguments, I mostly see anti-gay bloggers repeating and echoing articles from other anti-gay bloggers and from notoriously iffy "news" sources such as OneNewsNow and WorldNetDaily. As such, I find it unfortunate that so many anti-gay conservatives convince each other "through tears and spittle that vague unnamed enemies have failed them and that it's time to take angry action." Remaining mired in insularity feels safe because it feels certain. Yet, the reason I find this insularity to be disconcerting is because I see an obsession with an Oppose-Everything-Gay agenda among "marriage defenders" no matter what the specific issue is and no matter what the nuances are. It's always: Action Alert!: Every Pro-Gay Measure Must Be Opposed or else or else OR ELSE!!

It's my opinion that "Traditional Values" media sources have created a sort of group psychosis, if you will, that essentially tells Americans that Homosexuals Are Violent Sociopaths Who Want to Destroy the Family and Possibly Eat the Baby Jesus and that many "marriage defense" bloggers, through their own ignorance, are now maintaining this unfortunate state. Whether it's the obscure James Tanner prattling on about the "gay rights- a cascading tyranny of nihilistic hedonism" or Sally Kern informing us all that homosexuality is the biggest threat to this nation, it will always be peculiar to me- knowing how benign my life and the lives of so many of my friends are- that so many people devote so much of their own lives to writing about and opposing people who share my sexual identity.

I think, when it comes down to it, they have let themselves become convinced that we are Very Different kinds of humans than they themselves are.

When the other side's loss of contact with reality seems so profound, I question whether it's possible to even have a real meeting of the minds with some of them. I know there is shared humanity in there somewhere, but I wonder if all of the pain, projection, and paranoia will always obscure that reality.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

American Bar Association Opposes (Part of) the Defense of Marriage Act

The American Bar Association House of Delegates recently passed a resolution calling for the repeal of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 prohibits same-sex couples who have legal marriages under state law from receiving any of the federal benefits of marriage.

The American Bar Association (ABA), is a voluntary legal association for attorneys. According to an ABA news release, which also contains a link to the text of the resolution:

"[The resolution] neither supports nor opposes civil marriage for same-sex couples...but would ensure that state decisions on whether to recognize such marriages are given deference under federal laws and programs. The measure is advocated by ABA sections of Individual Rights and Responsibilities and Family Law, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Beverly Hills and San Francisco bars."

Unfortunately, I know that what professional organizations say about marriage equality and LGBT rights holds little sway in the minds of those whose minds are already turned against the Gay Agenda. Despite the fact, for instance, that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973, many anti-gay individuals and organizations remain convinced that homosexuality is a mental illness and that the removal was orchestrated by the super-duper powerful homosexualist lobby.

In fact, even though virtually every professional membership organization supports same-sex marriage, homosexuality, or adoption, as relevant to particular fields of study, anti-gays trust their guts more than they trust experts, who they deem to be motivated by a sense of political correctness gone too far.

Nonetheless, I read through the ABA's recommendation regarding DOMA and I find it to be persuasive and legally tenable. Not that it matters to many anti-gays, but a strong argument can be made that DOMA is a usurpation of state's rights. If a person is an intellectually consistent libertarian, this should matter:

"Throughout our history, the federal government has looked to state and tribal law to determine who is married for purposes of these provisions. But in 1996, Congress abandoned this tradition of deference to the states by enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, Section 3 of which denies same-sex couples married in accordance with state law the legal protections, rights, and responsibilities accorded to other married persons under federal law....

The enactment of this provision was an unprecedented encroachment on state prerogatives in the field of marital and family law, overriding state determinations and profoundly altering the traditional distribution of authority between the federal government and the states in the field of family law. It has deprived thousands of lawfully married same-sex spouses of the range of federal protections they would otherwise receive, making it difficult for them to provide for one another and subjecting them to financial hardship and uncertainty."

Regardless of one's opinions about marriage equality or LGBT rights, one cannot coherently claim to respect the principles of federalism while also respecting what DOMA does. It's too bad that so many people, wearing their Oppose-Everything-Gay Goggles, will criticize the ABA without even reading this reasoning.