Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Welp, as 2013 comes to a close I thought I'd reflect a bit on blogging over the course of the year.

1) Thanks!

Whether you're an "old regular" or a new visitor, thanks for checking in here now and then to read my writing.  And, relatedly, I appreciate that some of you take the time to comment or email me to say hi or let me know my writing has had some sort of impact on you.  For this blog being on Internet, the majority of you who comment here are friendly, reasonable, and funny people and I'm grateful for that!

2) The 2014 Reading Experiment

Secondly, I've decided to go ahead with the experiment to read, for pleasure, only books written by women in 2014. I'll post periodic updates with what I'm currently reading and what's in my queue, and other readers can feel free to chime in with recommendations and what they're reading as well.

I'm starting with:
  • Excluded, by Julia Serano (I've technically already started this book, but I know I won't finish it until January!)
  • The Broken Kingdoms, by NK Jemisin (Book 2 of her Inheritance Trilogy)
  • Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey
  • Rape is Rape, by Jody Raphael
Thanks to all who participated in that conversation the other day and who gave reading recommendations.

I've had the Raphael book in my queue for a long time, and actually received a review copy of the book from the publisher.  However, I think the book is going to be an intense rape culture read, and well, sometimes, a person just doesn't have the will to read about sexual assault, even for purposes of writing a book review.

I'm going to tackle the book in 2014, however, because some Penn State fans have harassed Raphael online, including sabotaging her Amazon reviews, because she purportedly made what appears to have been a minor error in her book related to a detail in the Penn State sex abuse scandal. (I say that without having read the book yet and knowing all the details, so Penn State fanboys can just hold off on starting a shitstorm here).

3) Top Fannie's Room Posts in 2013

Here were the most-read posts in Fannie's Room during 2013, by month:
I'd like to add that Melissa McEwan from Shakesville included many of these posts in her recommended reading posts, directing a lot of traffic my way.  Much appreciation to her! *fist bump*

4) Family Scholars Blog and Thoughts on Guest Blogging

Another thing that happened in 2013 was that the Family Scholars Blog (FSB), where I had been a guest blogger since 2012, was abruptly placed on, what the owners of the blog called, a "hiatus."  I still remain mostly in the dark about what all prompted that decision and whether the blog will ever resume again.  

About a year ago, I had actually tried to resign from my stint there, but was talked out of it by David Blankenhorn.  I won't divulge the details of that conversation, but I will say much of the experience has left me with a somewhat-bad unresolved taste in my mouth. I guess that's fine. Not everything in life ends up being resolved, so these days I've thought of the experience in terms of what I've learned from it.

I've guest written at many sites during my time blogging, and with respect to my time at FSB, I learned some valuable lessons about conditions/questions I would need answered before I accepted another guest blogging gig anywhere, but especially at a site run by those with whom I have large, fundamental disagreements about LGBT and gender issues.  These lessons might be helpful to others who might be considering guest blogging, so.

For one, I would ask for control over how my posts were moderated. If a couple people consistently showed up to steer comments in a toxic direction, would I be allowed to ban them from my posts?  Would the owners support me in, or resent for, drawing these boundaries?

Relatedly, I would request a bit of transparency in how comments were moderated "behind the scenes."
I would want to know, for instance, whether moderators moderated conversations under their usual blogging identities or, say, whether they commented under one identity while moderating comments under a different "Moderator" identity.

I would also want to know who is actually doing the moderating and/or running of the blog and what qualifies them for that role?  Are they a college kid, an intern, a paid staff person?  I've been doing this a long time and I've developed a good instinct now for when someone shows up who's likely to be A Problem.  Am I going to be gaslit by less experienced moderators when I recognize problematic patterns?

And, importantly, I would ask the blog owners how much they have thought about the comment moderation policy at their site, and try to assess if the site had a semi-workable one.  I've written several posts over the course of the year discussing how running a site that strikes a reasonable balance between freedom of expression and participant safety actually takes a lot of work and actual resources.  So, I'd want to know, for instance, whether the blog owners had a belief that contentious conversations would somehow end up being mostly civil on Internet, or whether they were fine with their blog being an "anything goes" forum where hostility is implicitly sanctioned.

TL;DR version - I have high standards for guest blogging gigs, especially when I'm volunteering my time and writing skills.

Anyway, a big positive of my time blogging at FSB was having been able to maintain a friendship with Anna, also a former FSB guest blogger, who runs The Feminist Librarian blog.  *waives*   It's also her copy of Excluded that I've been reading for a few weeks now, and I promise I will finish it soon!

5) NOM's Thomas Peters In Serious Accident

National Organization for Marriage (NOM) employee and blogger Thomas Peters was injured, in July, in a very serious swimming accident that fractured his vertebrae.  I knew of Peters mostly through his public opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBT equality.

His family keeps a blog, updating it with notes on his recovery, and I actually have it in my blog reader.  His recovery has sounded arduous and it seems he has little ability to move his body below his neck. In November, Peters was back in very limited capacity, reflecting on his time away from his advocacy work.

I've thought several times about sharing my thoughts on his post, and each time have stopped. A part of me was hoping his experience would have given him greater compassion for LGBT individuals, maybe an "Upworthy" inspirational change of heart about things. But, *spoiler alert* , he's back Tweeting:


Most of all, I'm sad that he'll continue opposing my equality, as he has vows to "come back and fight harder than ever" for all of his beliefs about marriage, a vow he makes while typing with only the knuckle on his pinky finger.

This past year, I had to have a surgery that has a notoriously uncomfortable recovery period.  My partner was with me, similar to how Peters' wife has supported him, every step of the way. She was with me in the hospital, in the waiting room, and when I woke up in the recovery room. She brought me home, made me meals, kept the household running - none of which I would have been able to do on my own.

Perhaps the Peters family would cringe at me even daring to compare our relationships, but Peters' wife sounds similarly wonderful - devoted, caring, and loving.  We do have this common shared humanity, whether they acknowledge it or not.  And, even if Peters doesn't see our commonalities, I do.  I wish he did too. And, I wish him healing and peace.  We disagree about a lot of stuff, so I'll just leave it at that.

6) A Good Year for LGBT Rights!

Lastly, on a more upbeat note, 2013 was actually a pretty good year for LGBT issues in the US (although, content note for the first item on that list - Aziz Ansari doesn't actually "take down" homophobia, he really just makes a fat joke. Not sure why that item is #1 on the list when so many things that were actually cool happened last year and are depicted on the list).

Multiple states, including my home state, legalized same-sex marriage.  And, as soon as same-sex marriage is officially legal this Summer in Illinois, my partner and I will be upgrading our civil union to a marriage so we will be treated equally under federal law! We will have been together 8 years, and will be keeping our civil union certificate just to show future generations what it was like in the "old days."

Also, Laverne Cox, in Orange is the New Black, became the first trans woman of color with a leading role on a relatively mainstream TV show.  And, national organization GLAAD affirmed its commitment to supporting trans and bisexual people, in addition to gay men and lesbians, which is a big step for Gay Inc.

Welp, I guess that wraps up this Year in Review Post.  See you next year (har har har)!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Robertson as a Symbol of Waning Patriarchy

Let me preface this post by saying sorry for keeping this story somewhat in the news/blog cycle - this will be the last time I blog about this Duck Dynasty shit (at least this year, LOL).

But, I have a contention.

First item of note is that always on the lookout for a new Christian martyr, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has created a petition to "Tell A&E to Apologize and Reinstate Phil Robertson."  No surprise there.  But, it gets better.

Robertson's suspension, NOM goes on to claim, is just further evidence that the HRC, GLAAD, and equality supporters are "brutal bullies."  Even more recently, NOM has written a long-winded fundraising appeal comparing the incident to the threat of nuclear war.

Moving on from my point that NOM seems to grow more vile and extreme every week, the second item of note is that I've been pondering this Robertson incident and the resulting rage that so many white heterosexuals are expressing about this man experiencing consequences for his speech.

They seem to think that while his views may have been expressed in a "coarse" manner, he's really doing nothing more than expressing his Christian beliefs.  In addition to this belief being one of the worst PR campaign's for Christianity ever, I do believe that if we poke a bigot even just a little bit, it really doesn't take much for the really indefensible views to surface.  A dude who rants about vaginas and anuses likely has a shitload of other, ahem "problematic" views and stereotypes about queers dancing around in his head.

Third, a man writing for a site called Tea Party Nation said something that really stuck with me. He led his rant about the incident with:
"Aside from the silliness of A&E putting Phil Robertson in time out like he's a mis-behaving 5 year old..."
Contrast that characterization with the very literal way that the family calls Robertson their "patriarch." 

My contention here is that what seems to be lurking behind the rage and backlash to Robertson's suspension is anxiety about the impending dethroning of the heterosexual, white, male Christian - the very symbol of patriarchy in the United States - from his position as purported objective authority and superior human in the world.

Many folks upset about "what happened" to Robertson seem to view him as an upstanding Christian American man's man. And, although this man has had more of a public platform than 99% of Americans will ever get, such a man losing that platform due to his bigoted expressions really stirs shit up as though it's evidence of the plight of the downtrodden, oppressed True Christian in the United States today.

People seem anxious about this incident in the way that children are anxious when they see daddy get in trouble. Daddy is supposed to be the one who barks at other people to stand in the corner, not the one who's disciplined himself.

He's supposed to be the one who gets to say what's rude, what's moral, and what's bigotry.  And, although he only knows what it's like to live as a privileged white heterosexual man, daddy still thinks he's the ultimate authority on everyone else's lived experiences in the world. He has lots to teach everyone else, you see, about what's smart. What's stupid. What's logical. What's sexually appealing.

Historically in the US, being seen as an authority and the definer of truth was almost the sole prerogative of the privileged white Christian heterosexual man.  This -what I like to call - fauxbjectivity is what convinces many men that they're closer to god than women, that they have special insight into what is and isn't objectively sinful, and that black people were mostly happy during Jim Crow just because they personally heard no black people complain about it.  It's what convinces them that everyone else gets upset about stupid little things, but whoa whoa now when their prickly pride and concerns are on the line, watch out the fuck out!

But, the ground is shifting.

Their privilege is being lost. Their voices are no longer imbued with as much unearned authority as they once were. The louder Robertson and his supporters scream about being bullied by the homo mob, the more they lose a generation of Christians.

With his bratty, arrogant, poorly-thought-out rants, and his seeming ignorance that the rest of the world doesn't see him as the authority he thinks he is, the white, anti-gay, Christian man is finding that lots of people disagree with his moral compass and have good reason to do so.

With their anger and over-the-top persecution complex, this type of man and his allies are being revealed for the entitled people they are.  For, what we are witnessing here is not the "brutal bullying" of the white heterosexual, anti-gay Christian man, but rather his demotion from superior to equal.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Quote of the Day

[Content note: homophobia]

"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical." -Phil Robertson

I've never heard of this Robertson gasbag before zillions of raging white heterosexuals leaped to his defense earlier this week, but lord, this statement is precisely the sort of I'm just a common folksy folk guy just telling it like it is tone that I find so irritating.

I mean, even the way CNN frames it invites a false dichotomy:

"Is this man simply expressing his beliefs or spewing bigotry?"

Like, a person can't be doing both things at once?  As though if one is "simply" expressing one's beliefs, those beliefs should be immune from criticism?

Nope. Nopedy nope nope nope!

Robertson is part of a show on a TV network that, since his above commentary and also-abhorrent commentary about black people, has put him on hiatus indefinitely.  

According to the same CNN article, there's a petition at change.org to bring Robertson back, along with a pro-Robertson Facebook page that now has at least 200,000 likes.  It's so neat how the mainstream is so very forgiving of white men and boys who fuck up.  It's almost like there's a whole culture entitling them to do so.  

On the.... upside? I have been a little entertained by the more than a handful Robertson Internet Defenders who are saying things like, "All he did was quote the Bible! A man can't even quote the Bible anymore?!?!"  

*stops to re-read Robertson quote*

And today's post was brought to you by one of the worst PR campaign for Christianity, ever.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Patterns in Commenting

So, after 7 years or so of blogging, it turns out I've picked up a pretty good sense for when commenters here, and others I encounter on Internet, are going to be not great for me to interact with.  It also turns out that in my older and wiser years, I care less about falling into The Tolerance Trap wherein, in order to be a Good Blogger, one must allow all opinions and voices just because people have them and that's the tolerant thing to do.

See, although it might not seem like a big deal if it looks like a commenter strolls by and "slightly" mischaracterizes what I wrote in a post, for a commenter to come right out of the commenting gate with something like "First of all, [insert mischaracterization, proceed to write a novel rebutting it]", signals that they're reacting more to what they think I said than what I've actually said.  Which is rarely fun for anyone.

In my experience, engaging with such people often means having to be on guard against repeated mischaraterizations, having to continually correct people's interpretations of my arguments, and ultimately having to try to decipher what I think they think my argument is so that actual conversation can happen. It's a tedious process and, honestly, I'm not always up for it.  It can be infinitely easier for me to be like, "Welp, it looks like we disagree about some stuff, how about we just leave it at that, yeah?"

Secondly, I've previously discussed sock-puppeting with respect to Internet commenting and entitlement.  So, "two people" showing up to comment on the same site, both of whom are in pretty much 100% agreement with one another and who have the same IP address is suspicious.  It tells me, wow, this person probably really wants to appear to be right and that there's a good chance it's one person pretending to be two different people or two people sitting together manufacturing support for one another.  

Yes, two friends or roommates can both be in agreement about stuff (and likely often are) and both be posting on the same site from the same location, but I think a less suspicious course of action to take when two people in the same household are engaging in debate in the same forum would be for them to make substantive contributions to the conversation beyond merely rubber stamping what the other has said.  An important consideration when commenting with a friend is, I think, "What we're doing might be 100% innocent, but how might it appear to others and how can I/we appropriately clarify and engage?"

Saying something like, Well, uh gee, my roommate's computer was broken and, um, she used mine and must have found your blog too and decided to comment, is.... entertaining, I guess.

Third, in my experience when someone says something akin to how they consider themselves a feminist although, really, they prefer the term "equalist" because feminism should really be "about equality," I know that said equalist and I are likely at fundamentally different places in how we understand and think about feminism.  Which, you know, fine.  Lots of feminisms exist, and people are at lots of different stages in their feminism.

I'm just not always super interested in having the same conversations I've had about zillion times before about how stuff is hard for men too, so can't feminism focus more on men.  I mean, there's a place for that convo to happen for people for whom it's new and stuff, but I don't really see Fannie's Room as the place for that Important Convo at this moment in time.

Fourth, I never know quite what to do with the commenter who will just drop a link into a comment with something like, "See, read this, these people agree with me," and meanwhile, the content they've linked to is like novella-length.  It's just, like, really lazy and I'm always wondering, which damn part of this piece am I supposed to respond to?  Do I just drop everything I'm doing and rebut the entire thing? 

I just find it more conducive to a conversation when people formulate their own arguments and then link to other content or arguments to support a specific argument they themselves are making.  "Go read this whole thing" is just too broad for me to work with given the other constraints on my time and, frankly, my interests. 

Lastly, if I've asked a commenter to not comment here, then don't fucking comment here.  When someone does so, especially if they claim to be a feminist (or "equalist") despite me directly asking them not to do so, that's a big signal to me that they and I have fundamentally different understandings of feminism and boundaries.

Relatedly, I mostly skim those Parting Last Words (ie, insults) banned commenters so often feel the need to leave.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A 2014 Reading Experiment

I myself am contemplating reading books only by female authors in 2014.

I thought about posting that experiment on Facebook, but envisioned a tedious conversation with mansplainers telling me how sexist and misandrist such an experiment would be and why was I trying to ban all books written by men ever!

Perhaps that imaginative scenario appears to have escalated quickly, but really.

I've been doing gender blogging for a long time. I know how it goes.  You make one comment about how making a sexist joke in the midst of a tense conversation about gender isn't the best timing and suddenly, some dudes are all, "Why are you trying to ban comedy from the whole entire world?!?!"

Anyway, last week a male friend posted a list of the 10 books that have had the greatest influence on him.  9 of them were written by men.  His friends followed suit and a similar pattern emerged.  None of them seem to have noticed or cared that 90% of their fave books ever were written by men.

So, I argue.

If I consciously choose to read books only by female authors in 2014, in recognition of the fact that women's writing has long been undervalued and suppressed compared to men's, doing so is not "reverse sexism."  It's certainly no worse than what these men, who aren't even aware of their preferences, are doing. In fact, it's not even sexism.

It would be a choice I'm making for me because the list of books in my to-read queue is damn long and I reckon I have a lot of making up to do given that at least 80% of the books I read growing up, thanks to the educational system I traversed, were written by men.

Oh yes, I have heard from a lot of men.

I also know that the rebuttal to anyone noting that, say, 90% of the books on any given "best of" list are written by men is that "we" should "just read whatever we like" and "so what if that just so happens to be books written entirely by men, maybe their writing is just the best."  Like, there's rarely any acknowledgement of the extent to which being socialized to overvalue men's writing and opinions might maybe influence people's reading choices throughout their lives.

Just as many white people claim they "don't even see race" when in reality that often means they don't see racism, it's as though these "gender blind" book fans' privilege of not thinking regularly about gender issues somehow insulates them from being influenced by living in a sexist society.  It's also as though people think that evaluating the quality of a book is a simple, objective matter that can be determined by, perhaps, a computer program that will give them a binary answer as to whether or not a book is good and that therefore the Official Judges Of Books are not also influenced by sexism.

See, it also turns out, 9/10 Book Guy is a member of the clergy in a religion that doesn't ordain women and from which he primarily reads male voices purporting to be moral and spiritual authorities. It would seem almost willful for us to collectively pretend that the book choices he makes are 100% due to men being better writers than women and that he's not at all influenced by the constant drumbeat he hears everyday about the spiritual superiority of men compared to women.

My point here isn't to tell people what books they should read or what books they should or shouldn't like. Clearly, books written by men resonate more with 9/10 Book Guy. My point here is that it would be a mistake to think that that which resonates with men is objectively better than that which resonates with women.

That seems obvious to state, but it also seems like it bears stating.

Monday, December 16, 2013

NOM Offended By Legal Realities

The increasingly-irrelevant National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) has its knickers in a twist over a rather benign article that merely reports how the US Department of Education will now treat same-sex married couples the same as heterosexual married couples on student loan applications.

NOM snarks:
"On the one hand, this isn't really 'news.' It's a natural progression required by the Supreme Court's decision in June to strike down part of DOMA. On the other hand, it's an opportunity for the media to keep advancing the same-sex marriage agenda by keeping it in the spotlight and giving it undue attention. Harken back to the study from this past summer showing extreme media bias in coverage. This is just another example."
What a remarkably privileged and self-centered claim to say that the Department of Education's statement isn't "news" and that this sort of article constitutes excessive reporting about same-sex marriage.

The legal realities for same-sex couples are still quite complex with some government agencies recognizing our unions and some of this recognition depending upon what state a couple was married in and whether their state of residence recognizes such unions. For instance, the Social Security Administration will grant benefits to a married same-sex couples if they were married in a state that recognizes same-sex unions AND if they live or lived in a state that recognizes their union. However, the IRS will allow same-sex married couples to file jointly if they were married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.  The couples do not also have to be residing in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

These legal realities are complex and varying in part because the federal government now recognizes same-sex marriage while many states do not - a situation that NOM helps to perpetuate through its opposition to same-sex marriage.

To many same-sex couples, the sort of clarification offered by federal agencies about how they will treat same-sex couples is a welcome source of information.

NOM's snide anger here is actually a good example of what I like to call the "conservative politically correct mindset" that chalks up to conspiracy what is actually reality.  That, of course, and undiluted, unexamined privilege and assholery.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Updates to Suspension Story

The boy, who I wrote about earlier in the week, who was suspended for kissing a girl in class had the allegations on his record changed from "sexual harassment" to "misconduct."  The linked-to Fox News article doesn't really explain why this change occurred, other than that the school district had been "inundated" with calls defending the boy.

Of fucking course.

Because missing from like 99% of reports were any statement made by the girl or her parents. Like, it wasn't even he-said, she-said, most of the media reports were almost entirely what the boy's mom said.

And, really, when I'm honest, few gender issues infuriate me more than a woman coddling rape culture entitlement in boys - because when women do it, with all of the associated "Can I just say as a female" bullshit prefacing, it does lend more credibility to whatever pro-rape-culture shit they're about to promote. Pretty much the only time sexist men will listen to women and believe women is when what we're saying validates their sexist, pro-rape-culture beliefs.

This one article, however, did bother to interview the girl's mother. And, she presents a quite different story of the situation than the OMG this poor, cute, innocent BOY got suspended for, like, NO REASON!! media hype.

She claims that in addition to the boy engaging in this behavior multiple times, including sneaking up on the girl, two boys "kept her (daughter) from playing with other kids and fought with each other." She adds:
"After they got in trouble, one boy stopped but the other boy apparently didn't get it. I had to put restrictions on her about which she was allowed to be around at school. I've had to coach her about what to do when you don't want someone touching you, but they won't stop."
The boy's mother, on the contrary, claimed that the boy and girl "like each other."

The girl herself told Fox News that she wanted the boy to "knock it off."

But, you know, I really don't want to get into litigating what happened. What's notable is how the boy being suspended at all is largely, widely viewed as CrAzY and Totally Out of Line, even though most people haven't even heard from the girl or her mother.

It's also really unfortunate that this instance really parallels what so often happens when men and boys are accused of rape or sexual harassment. Melissa at Shakesville notes:
"It's amazing (not remotely amazing) that this defense looks precisely like the rape apologia we see after every other case in which a male student breaches the consent of a female classmate. It was mutual. It was no big deal. There's nothing wrong with it. It's normal. It's natural. It's just a boy being a boy. To call out this behavior, to punish it, will have negative consequences for the boy who breached a girl's consent. It will ruin his life."
Boys and men have a lot of power, a lot of stereotypes, a lot of so-called common sense truths about gender, on their side working to validate their words and actions and minimize any resulting harm they might cause girls and women. It's almost like, gee, a whole culture exists, surrounding us all with the notion that girls and women exist in a state of perpetual consent to have our bodies touched, and that not getting a boy in trouble is more important that our bodily autonomy and integrity.

And, if people raise enough of a shit-storm, make enough phone calls whinging about PC Run Amok, then even the smallest disciplinary measures - like accurately calling sexual harassment sexual harassment - can be reversed. And, that's quite a lesson for girls to take in, yeah?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

News: Boy Punished For Sexual Harassment!

I suppose because this incident made it to the news we are supposed to be outraged or something about PC Feminism Gone Awry?

In this very brief news item, we learn that a school suspended a 6-year-old boy for kissing another student, a girl, on the cheek. We also learn that "school officials" purportedly want some sort of sexual harassment charge placed on the school record.


For, we also learn that the boy was suspended a previous time for kissing the girl. So, he apparently didn't learn his lesson. We also learn that the boy's mother claims that the girl "did not object to being kissed."

Regardless of whether a girl expressly "objects to being kissed" or not, I'm having difficulty contriving situations in which it would be appropriate for one student to kiss another student in the classroom.

By sheer virtue of this boy's punishment being a "news item" at all, the default working assumptions going on seem to be that (a) a girl consents to being kissed by other students in school unless she explicitly states otherwise, and (b) a boy is entitled to kiss girls in school multiple times without being punished for it.

These are the lessons people seem to learn at a young age, especially when society largely frames it as "cute" and "innocent" when little kids violate each other's boundaries.

When I was in grade school, I remember a boy used to regularly harass me during class movies. Whenever the lights would dim, he would sit next to me, stick his hands in his shorts, pull out his penis, and start jerking off.  I didn't know then how to tell him to stop, because I was like 7 and because I felt like it was me who was a bad person for having that happen to me. I ended up telling my sister and, together, we told on him and he did end up getting in trouble, although from what I remember he only got a stern talking to, rather than a suspension.

He, like the boy in the above news piece, learned his behavior from someone, sadly.  And, the way that adults respond to these situations can further entitle the behavior or stop it.  That includes the asinine pro-rape-culture commenters who Strongly Disagree with boys getting suspended for sexual harassment.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Update

I reckon that the number of atheist secular types who go into raging screaming fits when someone tells them "Merry Christmas" this time of year is the same as the number of feminist types who go into raging screaming fits when a male stranger holds open a door for them in public: 2.  Maybe. Ever. In the world.

The whole "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays" thing always strikes me as having so much baggage to it, as though whichever one people say to me, they're anxious about it, gauging which "side" I'm on, and/or they're seeing what they can get away with.  I almost feel like some Christians intentionally say, "Merry Christmas" whilst just daring all of their mythical PC Gone Too Far Acquaintances to call them out on it so they can then go off on a tangent about the goddamned War On Christmas.

It's like saying Merry Christmas to someone isn't even about actually wishing them a Merry Christmas anymore. It's about "winning."  The same people who feel super self-righteous about the Merry Christmas thing are the same people who are Very Loudly say the "under god" part in the Pledge of Allegiance. Like, they're just making a point, and "beating" their atheist, secular foes.

And blah blah blah some stuff about god, maybe. But the real point is cultural domination and moral superiority.

In other news, blogging has been light, and I've been slightly cantankerous, because I recently had a surgical procedure. I say surgical procedure because that makes it sound trivial, when in fact, it's had a bit of a recovery process to it.  I'm feeling well and not in pain, but I haven't been up to keeping my regular ol' blogging schedule the past couple of weeks.

I'm also not supposed to raise my blood pressure too much during this time so I don't spring any leaks in my stitching, so reading MRA bullshit and getting into Internet Kerfuffles with assholes, has intentionally not been a big part of my recovery process.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Conservative Writer Advises NOM to Change

Over at The Washington Post, conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin suggests that it's time for the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) to adapt to the reality of same-sex marriage and to begin actually promoting marriage.

She suggests some action items for the group:
"Campaign for marriage, not against gay marriage. Root out marriage penalties in the tax code. Enlist religious and secular groups to tout marriage and inform people about its physical, psychological and economic benefits. Promote private marriage counseling. If MADD can change attitudes on drunk driving, the environmental movement can make recycling delinquents into social pariahs and a conservative talk show host and Democratic senator can set out to raise awareness of adoption, NOM can certainly lead a cultural movement to promote marriage."
Well, we'll see, I guess.

Though, I always find it notable that conservatives are so willing, so able, to give individuals and organizations who oppose same-sex marriage the benefit of the doubt.

When I was a guest writer at the now-defunct Family Scholars Blog, writing regularly about the antics of NOM and other professional opponents of same-sex marriage in this conservative-dominated forum, I was often met with incredulity on the part of some of the conservatives there who, unlike many LGBT folks, actually do seem to operate on the assumption that NOM doesn't harm, whether intentionally or not, LGBT people. As though, sure, it makes 100% good, rational sense, and not even an iota of bigotry, to say you're all about saving marriage while focusing primarily on preventing same-sex couples from marriage.

Good grief, some would opine, what's so wrong about NOM seeking to drive a wedge between gays and blacks, anyway? Or, it's just a small but vocal group that actually hates gay people. Or, my personal fave, "both sides do it too!" whenever any evidence of anti-gay incivility was brought up.

I bring up these issues mostly as a reminder that many LGBT people and allies have a quite different perception of NOM and its purported goodwill and intentions with respect to saving marriage than do, apparently, many conservatives. The organization itself was formed in 2007 specifically to put Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, on the ballot in California. And, recently, NOM has increased its anti-trans advocacy, suggesting that it's moving toward a more sinister adaptation to the reality of ever-increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage: opposing transgender rights and equality.

For the organization to begin activities like promoting private marriage counseling and rooting out marriage tax penalties would seem to be quite a drift from its original, monomanically-gay-related purpose and history.

Frankly, I don't want NOM to lead a cultural movement. I would be very wary of folks at that organization being widely asked or expected to do so. The organization promotes hetero supremacy and asinine, bumper sticker thinking about gender essentialism. I question how many Americans even could look past its problematic anti-LGBT history and truly believe that the organization possesses the moral capital to "lead" a cultural movement around marriage at all.

Personally, I will not respect the organization or its leadership until they look within, ponder their losses, and publicly apologize to the LGBT community and acknowledge any harm caused through its advocacy and campaigns. I'm confident I'm not alone there.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The "Erin Brokovich" of Internet Harassment

This story is pretty incredible as it illustrates the endurance and determination that's often required to take on Internet bullies, harassers, and abusers when law enforcement largely ignores this pervasive problem.

The whole thing is not an easy read, as it documents case after case of Internet bullying and harassment of women.  But, people are developing ways to fight back and the resources to do so will continue to evolve.

Also, FYI, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative does seem to provide some support and resources to those affected by online harassment.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Illinois Bishop Exorcises the Demons!

In response to Illinois Governor Quinn signing Illinois' marriage equality bill (woop!), some absurd Catholic Bishop staged an exorcism, saying:
"I exorcise you, every unclean spirit, every power of darkness, every incursion of the infernal enemy, every diabolical legion, cohort, and faction, in the name and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be uprooted and put to flight from the Church of God from souls created in the image of God and redeemed by the precious blood of the divine lamb."
Now, 90% of what I know about Catholicism I learned from Sister Act, Wikipedia, a Catholic ex-girlfriend, and feminist critics, but does this Bishop think that gay people are actually possessed by demons?  Doesn't that literally demonize us?  Or, is it a super important, totally civil distinction to clarify that gay people aren't demons, it's just that there are demons inside us. Making us be gay.

And, is it at all considered unbecoming or, say, a breach of confidentiality and boundaries to exorcise people publicly without their consent? I mean, trusty Wikipedia notes that an exorcism should "never be broadcast in media but treated with the utmost discretion," so.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Blue is the Warmest Color"

My partner and I took the opportunity to watch Blue is the Warmest Color recently.

People seem to have lots of thoughts and feelings about this movie which, if you haven't heard, seems to be particularly notable for its long and graphic sex scenes between its two main female characters.  That's really all I knew about the movie before watching it, as I didn't read actual reviews of it beforehand so as to not taint, prejudice, or color my view of the movie before seeing it.

Of course, when I got home, I immediately got on Internet and scoured the blogs and media for reviews.

My short synopsis of the movie is that it follows several years in the life of a young woman, Adele, from her last year(s?) of high school until about her mid-20s? I'm not really sure, actually, on that time frame both because the passage of time in the movie is subtle and I think schooling maybe works differently in France?  One day Adele is in high school and has a blue-haired girlfriend but then gradually she is a teacher and has the same girlfriend, who now has blondish-brown hair and who (*spoiler alert*) just isn't that into Adele anymore.

I'm sure there's supposed to be a tie-in with the hair color and the English-version title of the movie, but Fannie's Room is not the blog to read for that sort of deep metaphorical analysis, I guess.

Anyway, to continue my "short" synopsis, Adele basically really seems to likes spaghetti, which we learn through several up-close clips of her slurping it down and getting a really messy face from it, and this hunger seems to be related to her hunger for sex.  Hence, I suppose, what has necessitated the graphic sex scenes?

Now, I'll just cut to the chase here. I don't mind sex scenes, particularly those involving women. And, prior to reading any reviews or backstory about this movie, I did appreciate the sex scenes for maybe the first 30 seconds or so.  But then, I quickly found them absurd.  (I say "them" because I'm remembering two sex scenes, but it might have just been one long one? Wev). If you've seen the movie, you might understand this confusion better.  Basically, I walked away thinking that the scene(s?) consist of a lot of moaning, a lot of position changing, and a lot of impressive acrobatics and reaching.

And, they were long.

7 minutes of straight-up sexual moaning is awkward in a movie, especially in a theater of what seemed to be mostly heterosexual couples.  I started turning my head sideways, like, "Wut? Really?"  I had the urge to stand up and announce to the theater, "Can I just clarify that not all lesbian sex is like this?"  As the scene continued on and on and on, it seemed like it was maybe trying to be a voyeuristic "Joy of Lesbian Sex" manual showcasing all of the positions available for two women, to an audience that Really Wants To Know What Women Do In Bed Together. That notion, to me, far eclipsed any other message the male producer of the movie was trying to make with these scenes.

And on the point of the male producer, Michelle Juergen has critiqued the "very distinct male gaze" behind the camera, while referencing how the two actors expressed feeling exploited by the producer.  Which yes, totally problematic. So, my main point is somewhat related - namely, that I'm struck by the critical accolades this movie has received and the implication that it has been a man that has practically invented the portrayal of lesbian sex and love in the movies.

Because, um, no.

Other than that, the story itself is sweet. Adele, in my opinion, is a likeable, flawed character muddling through life learning hard lessons and finding out who she is. At the same time, though, the love and coming-out story is nothing that about a gazillion lesbian and women producers haven't already told and that I haven't already seen before since I have watched every lesbian movie ever made no matter how bad or good, so.

My final note is kind of meta and has two parts. First, this video of lesbians reacting to Blue is pretty funny:

Secondly, I'm not even going to go down the path, myself, of saying "lesbians don't actually do that!" as some folks have.  How would I even know what all other people do in bed? That's certainly not in the Homosexualist Agenda newsletters I get.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day dedicated "to memorializing those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice."

Transgender women, particularly trans women of color, are disproportionately likely to be victims of violence and murder. In 2012, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs noted that 53% of all anti-LGBTQ hate crimes were committed against transgender women and that 73% of homicide victims were people of color.

I'd like to first start by linking to Monica's posts on TDOR - 238 names and Thinking About the Girls Likes Us Who Didn't Get a TDOR Memorial.

Second, I'd like to note that even as society in general more readily acknowledges that overt bigotry against gay men and lesbians is unacceptable, anti-trans bigotry continues to be pervasive in both overt and subtle ways, both within and outside gay and lesbian-dominated, cis-dominated LGBT communities.  As marriage equality for same-sex couples becomes more readily accepted in the US, I think we will see a shift in anti-LGBT organizations devoting more resources toward actively opposing measures that could benefit transgender people.

That's not to say that anti-gay groups have never targeted or disapproved of transgender people, but rather, that they usually have done so somewhat flippantly with an air of, "Transgender issues are obviously so absurd we don't even have to rebut them in any serious, measured way!"

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), for instance, has now gone beyond the scope of marriage-related issues and has involved itself in opposing California's law detailing the rights of transgender students (AB 1266). NOM is promoting the so-called "Privacy for All Students" coalition, which is working hard to repeal the law.

Rather than working with equality advocates, transgender individuals, and allies to come to a better understanding of the issues facing transgender youth, the coalition's approach as far as I have been able to ascertain from its "FAQ" section is to scare the masses into thinking that maybe thousands of cisgender boys will pretend to be trans so they can stare at girls in locker rooms and play girls volleyball.

NOM even wrote an absurd blogpost called, "Time is Short to Stop the Bullying of Children in School Showers and Bathrooms," warning people that kids are at imminent risk of being bullied by transgender and, I don't know, maybe fake-transgender kids in bathrooms if California's law goes into effect. (I think that people who think that kids will choose to pretend to be trans to get all of the awesome special benefits that trans people get are maybe not super informed about how the real world works!)

I reference NOM's and this coalition's activity today on purpose.

Anti-gay organizations largely oppose same-sex marriage while offering same-sex couples, gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people no viable, realistic, alternative ways to protect ourselves and our families. In their ideal world, we would either assimilate into heterosexual marriage, just not exist, or exist on the margins of society and not utilize the social institutions that are supposedly for the Normal People.

In a similar way, anti-trans advocates seem to implicitly (and, often, explicitly) take a similar approach to trans people.  The "Privacy for All Students" coalition claims to be against bullying of any student, but by showing a general lack of concern for coming up with actual solutions for trans students, my god by even failing to acknowledge that trans kids and adults are at so much greater risk for being bullied and assaulted than cisgender people!, they fail to show any understanding as to how adults implicitly condone and pass on information about who is and isn't an acceptable person to bully and hate.

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Toxic Forced Optimism"

I read Amanda Marcotte's recent article at Slate featuring a website dedicated to having honest conversations about death, mourning, and grief.

The website itself, Modern Loss, includes resources and forums to talk about and deal with the often-taboo-to-talk-about topic of death.  From the site, what you will not get is:
• Judgment
• Tips to help you “get over” or “get past” it
• Anything associated with the idea of a “valid” loss. If you feel it, it’s real
• The phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” Just … no
I find this refreshing.

More than two years ago, I lost a good friend in an accident (which I wrote briefly about here), and found that not only was the loss itself difficult, but the way many people talked about it was often invalidating and included common phrases like, "She's in a better place," "She's an angel now," and "Now she's watching over us."

I guess some people find comfort in thinking they 100% know what their loved ones are doing after they've died, but all I could think was, "No!! How do you know that?!?!?"  I'm more the person who needs to live in that brutal uncertainty, and pain, for awhile because that feels more honest and real to me.

Marcotte's article, above, includes the phrase "toxic forced optimism" in reference to American culture, and I found that incredibly resonating.

10 years ago, when my grandmother was in hospice care, I had further experience with toxic forced optimism. The day we found out she had terminal cancer, a good friend of mine picked me up from the hospital and spent the next hour or so trying to cheer me up with jokes and other light-hearted conversations.

It was truly exhausting to be so sad and yet to have this external pressure to appear happy and carefree.  It was its own version of gaslighting. I finally turned to my friend and said, "Just stop. I need to be sad about this. You don't have to be sad with me or for me, but I need to feel this."

Spiritually, I was raised a Christian although I now lean towards Buddhist agnosticism. Buddhism, at least as I practice it, is not always a comforting practice. Pema Chodron writes that life is like rowing a boat into the middle of a lake knowing it's going to eventually sink.

Yet, in that reality, dark humor can sometimes exist. And, I am a fan of dark humor. Dark humor that is not cruel or contemptuous, but that comes from people acknowledging brutal realities and our sometimes-helplessness in the face of them.

Near the very end, my grandmother took one last bath. We all, even her, knew her death was imminent. She was awake less and less and had been having dreams, visions, of relatives long gone. It was an emotional time as we all were in various stages of working through various family conflicts that seem to often arise in families during deaths.

As my mom helped her dress after that last bath,my grandmother looked up and said, "You know, whatever happens, I won't come back and haunt you." And, it was fucking hilarious at the time and paradoxically comforting. It was her way of saying, "Yes, I'm going to die, and you all are going to have to work everything out without me."

That, I could work with. Far more than, "everything happens for a reason" or us all repressing the reality that she was dying.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dick Morris Concerned About the Homospectacular TV People

Conservative commentator Dick Morris opines on "the real gap" in American politics, which he claims is between married versus single adults, rather than between men and women.

It's a silly, stupid article, really, but I want to highlight this snippet:
"But it is more the Democrats’ allies in Hollywood and the media who foster a lifestyle that does not include marriage. They rarely depict marriage, except to mock it (the Runaway Bride or Father of the Bride). Love flourishes in Hollywood but not much marriage. 
When Hollywood — and the TV people — wants to sell something, they certainly can. Look at how the constant pounding of shows featuring gay couples has melted public aversion to gay marriage in record time. The fact is the Hollywood has declared war on straight marriage for decades."
Er, okay.

You always know a dude has his finger on the pulse of Hollywood when he cites two dorkwad movies from the 1990s as though they're totally representative of an apparently marriage-invisibilizing media culture these days.

I generally like reading thoughtful critiques of movies and TV shows but when one's argument is that all of Hollywood is anti-hetero-marriage because Father of the Bride happened, I walk away being mostly irritated that someone who is apparently a semi-popular political commentator can be so fucking lazy about crafting an argument.  I mean, isn't like 75% of Julia Roberts' filmography alone kind of a one-woman hetero marriage PR campaign to some extent?

In fact, I can think of not even one currently-running TV show that invisibilizes marriage in the way that Morris suggests is rampant in all of Hollywood. I can think of no movie or TV show I've recently seen in which at least some of the characters are not heterosexually-married.

So, I'm not sure what Dick Morris expects from the media.  For all LGBT characters to STFU and go away? For the creation of a special hetero-affirming station in which the plots of all shows are centered around straight people courting and eventually getting married while everyone waives around "hetero marriage is #1" foam fingers 24 hours a day?

And.... "the TV people"? I don't even know, but it's impossible for me to see that phrase without thinking of this.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thoughts on The X-Files

So, I've been re-watching The X-Files, lately, and I'm currently on Season 7.

Does anyone know of any good feminist critique of the series? I have had a lot of thoughts marinating around in my head about it, like:

  • At first it struck me as a gender role reversal that Scully, the female lead, is presented as the rational, science-based skeptic and that Mulder, the male lead, is the more emotional, conspiracy-minded character. However, because The X-Files is based in a universe in which the supernatural is real, it seems like Mulder is right about his theories, and Scully is wrong in her skepticism, most of the time.  Depicting a man having a better grasp on reality compared to his female counterpart is hardly subversive. 
  • Mulder is such a mansplainer. He, unlike Scully, is portrayed as knowing a little bit about nearly every conceivable issue that the two encounter, no matter how obscure and unlikely, because.... ummmm?  I swear that in about 70% of their interactions, Scully is an empty vessel into which Mulder pours his knowledge and theories.  And sure, Scully is often skeptical of his knowledge, but when Mulder is so often correct, Scully ends up seeming stubborn and highly irrational for never believing Mulder despite the fact that he has a 7-year history of so often being right!  Plus, is it kind of a fantasy for many men in these days of the so-called Man Crisis to, for special lucky reasons, still be smarter and more knowledgeable than even very smart, educated women like Dana Scully?  (Or at least to think they are?)
  • Side note, but Mulder's near-omnisciece is similar to my critique of Peter in Fringe, and now that I think about it what kind of doctor is Walter anyway? A medical doctor? A physicist? A chemist? All of the above? I can suspend my disbelief about a lot of things for entertainment purposes, but his science expertise seems both incredibly broad and deep. Like, he seems to have a pretty solid Ph.D-level understanding of space/time travel as well as human anatomy and physiology.
  • Like I said, I'm currently on Season 7. So far, Scully has only spoken to another female character about something other than a man like 5 times ever, and I can't even picture if those conversations have happened devoid of the presence of men. Meanwhile, man-to-man convos happen all the time, and the many men Scully encounters get to be FBI agents, villains, geeks, hackers, mutants, shadow men, and more.  
  • Similarly, I'm pretty sure that more aliens and supernatural entities exist in The X-Files universe than people of color.
  • Male characters are regularly conventionally unattractive (in this lesbian's subjective opinion, I guess) and older, but female characters tend to be conventionally attractive and younger.  I don't mind unattractive characters, but I am irritated by the gender discrepancy.
I guess when the series started (1993), it was a bigger deal to have a female main character who was intelligent, physical, and more than a romantic interest for the male main character.  I guess that's maybe a first level of progress for women. A good next step is having those women have people in their lives who aren't almost solely a variety of white dudes. 

In other news, I've been trying to get into Warehouse 13 and it seems somewhat promising.  Any fans of that show?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NFL Player Speaks Intelligently About Gender and Bullying

Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall recently addressed the bullying culture in the NFL:
“Look at it from this standpoint. Take a little boy and a little girl. A little boy falls down and the first thing we say as parents is ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK. Don’t cry.’ A little girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s going to be OK.’ We validate their feelings. So right there from that moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, to not show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 with football players. You can’t show that your hurt, can’t show any pain. So for a guy to come into the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem. 
"That’s what I mean by the culture of the NFL. And that’s what we have to change. So what’s going on in Miami goes on in every locker room. But it’s time for us to start talking."
I added emphasis in those final sentence because, wow, what a refreshing change of pace!

Maybe I read too much Men's Rights Activist (MRA) stuff, but a typical MRA would replace those final sentences with a non sequitur along the lines of, "... and that's what's why feminism must die."

Instead, Marshall acknowledges that the culture of bullying in the NFL is a result of both how boys/men are socialized and of how football culture exaggerates those expectations associated with masculinity.  Instead of chiding feminists for not solving this issue for men, by using the words "we" and "us" he also implicitly proposes that those who are largely responsible for this issue, and who have actual power to make changes, in the NFL - men - begin to seriously address the problem. After all, it's men who are 100% of NFL players, the vast majority of coaches and managers, and who are marketed to as the target audience of authentic football fans.

Well done!

Also notable is that a commenter following the article, a man, immediately begins ridiculing and gender policing Marshall's statements:
"All NFL teams should be mandated to have Gay Pride Parades on the field during halftime along with periodic announcements on the PA as the game is played encouraging group hugs.

We'll also need an extra month of all the players wearing pink equipment to make sure the message gets across. One of the root causes of all of this bullying is the tackling. It encourages bad manners and feelings. The NFL should replace tackling with wearing flags -- if a flag is taken off during the play, the play ends -- and we need strict enforcement on that. 
Moreover, yelling and shows of emotion should also be banned and enforced with 15 yard penalties.

And let's be honest, the team uniforms and logos aren't gender-neutral enough, can't we tone those down with some pastels and fuscias?"
Here, the male commenter aptly demonstrates how oftentimes it's other men who, through their contempt for femininity and women, create many of the roadblocks toward solving some of these issues that uniquely impact men.  MRAs rarely, if ever, take such men to task.

Monday, November 11, 2013

NOM Makes Another Prediction - Illinois Marriage Edition

In response to Illinois' recent move to approve marriage equality for same-sex couples, Brian Brown of the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) chimed in with a prediction:
"It’s disappointing but not surprising that the House has voted to redefine marriage. The losers will be the people of Illinois who will see that redefining marriage will unleash a torrent of harassment toward those who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman/ Once the law goes into effect in June of next year, we will see individuals, businesses and religious groups sued, fined, brought up on charges of discrimination and punished simply for holding true to the traditional view of marriage. 
The legislation that has been adopted contains no meaningful protections for religious liberty. We will see a torrent of actions aimed at people of faith and religious groups."
It's not super clear exactly how many incidents qualify as a "torrent" here, and I personally wouldn't have made the editorial decision to use a noteworthy word like that twice in the same prediction, but I'm guessing a "torrent" means more than a handful here.

Now, just for some historical context, before President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Act into law in 2009, anti-LGBT groups like the American Family Association, the Traditional Values Coalition, and Concerned Women for America predicted that this hate crimes law would give special protections to pedophiles and other, what they dubbed, "sexual orientations."  Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber also predicted that Christians would be on "high alert" and that pastors would begin to be "prosecuted" for anti-gay speech.

Welp, 3 years later and NOPE. Nope nope nope nopedy NOPE. That hasn't happend, nor does it seem likely or realistic any time soon.

But wow! NOM sure loves its nature catastrophe-based predictions, yeah?  

Remember this, from Prop 8:

Now, if what's happened in other states is any indication of what will happen in Illinois, I have a prediction of my own.

Let's see here, maybe a few employees in the Secretary of State's office will refuse to do their jobs, citing their "sincere religious beliefs," by refusing to process the marriage licenses/applications of same-sex couples. These employees would likely either be transferred to a different department, given a special workplace accommodation to discriminate against some Illinois residents, or they would be fired.

Likewise, maybe a handful of business owners will likely, say, refuse to rent space, bake a cake, or sell rings to a same-sex couple for their wedding and will consequently be sued or reported to a government entity like the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

Certain anti-gay groups will monitor these incidents and subsequently cast these individuals as martyrs who have practically been subjected to horrific human rights abuses and unfathomable religious persecution because of their "sincerely held religious beliefs" about homosexuality.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Seems Legit

Via Skepchick, here's a list of reasons that could get you locked up in a mental institution in the late 1800s. It purportedly comes from the former-known-as "Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum," which is now open only for tours.

I could have been admitted for multiple reasons, although I won't divulge which ones ("novel reading" - really?).

It's notable that one could be admitted for "masturbation for 30 years" as well as for "suppressed masturbation."  I guess the key was to find a happy medium.

In all seriousness, the list shows a sad, disturbing focus on sex, masturbation, and female bodies that perhaps said more about those categorizing and treating these patients and "illnesses" than about the patients themselves.

Anti-gay bigots like to bring up the former classification of homosexuality as a mental illness and claim that it was only due to pressures of the powerful gay propaganda that got homosexuality declassified as a mental illness. However, I think historical evidence like the above absurd list serves an important role in reminding us to question how homosexuality got framed as a mental illness in the first place.

A Conversation on the Word "Hysteria" 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Friedman Piece on MRAs

Over at the liberal-leaning American Prospect, Jaclyn Friedman has written a great profile on Men's Rights Activists (MRAs).

In addition to critiquing mainstream (often male) reporters who assume way too much good faith on the part of MRAs, she aptly notes:
"The list of grievances for MRAs is long. It includes the elevated rate of suicide for men, educational discrimination against boys, economic and workplace conditions for men, violence against men, false rape reporting, fathers’ rights in custody battles, rates of male imprisonment and prison conditions, and the horrors of war. Many of these issues deserve a thoughtful response and the force of an organized movement for address them. It’s too bad that’s not what men’s rights activists are offering. 
Case in point: Last month, AVFM and CAFE (the Canadian Association For Equality, an MRA group) held a 'historic' rally in Toronto. Attended by a few dozen people, the rally featured speakers airing grievances about violence against men, and men’s unfair treatment in family courts, the workplace, and educational institutions. 'Men matter,' the crowd cheered. One speaker, who was quickly ushered away from the mic, called for violent uprising against communism. But what was most notable about the rally was that not a single speaker proposed a solution to any of the problems they identified. 
Instead, no matter what the issue is, the response from Men’s Rights Activists is the same: blame, threaten, and harass women, mostly online."
Even, I guess what I'd call, softer man-focused gender websites such as Feminist Critics are disturbing in their monomanic focus on critiquing feminism at the expense of actually doing tangible things to address any of the issues they claim to care about on behalf of men.  At this particular blog, for instance, feminists are criticized for things like not initiating shitstorms on behalf of men, for writing in a "gynocentric" manner, and for, no joke, not expressing sufficient enthusiasm for upcoming male-centered movies.

Unlike large feminist blogs that regularly give readers ways to organize and advocate (ie - contact your legislators here!), many of these manosphere sites include no similar action items for men. The sites, at their most benign (which isn't saying much), seem to mostly be compilation of ways that feminist (usually) women should change our writing, thinking, and advocacy to center men and, at their worst, are ways for men to angrily vent about, and threaten, bitches and sluts.

Indeed, a key premise of the MRA movement more broadly is that there simply aren't enough people critiquing feminism so dudes better get the word out that feminism sucks, man.

Which really, is just darkly hilarious, right?

Because what's too bad for men, and women, is that what's lacking in the world is not people who criticize feminism, but large numbers of men who will roll up their sleeves, organize, and find productive, non-misogynistic ways to address, and even speak about, the issues that uniquely affect men.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Marriage Equality Passes Illinois House and Senate



Illinois, which passed a civil union law a couple of years ago, is poised to allow marriage equality for same-sex couples. Yesterday, the bill passed 61-54 in the Illinois House and has already passed in the state Senate. Governor Pat Quinn has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.  The law would go into effect June 1st of next year.

This is a big loss for the New Jersey-headquartered National Organization for Marriage, which has involved itself in advocating against the Illinois law.

It's also a big loss for some pretty vocal, prominent Illinois-based anti-gay voices, who are among some of the most virulent in the nation. Laurie Higgins' Illinois Family Institute has been monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center  and Right Wing Watch for, among other things, comparing homosexuality to Nazisim.

And, of course, Peter LaBarbera's organization Americans for Truth [sic] About Homosexuality is headquartered in Naperville, Illinois. LaBarbera has also been monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has been a notorious, vocal opponent of LGBT rights for at least the past 20 years. [Update: LaBarbera tweeted his reaction to yesterday's news: "Arrogance of Liberals: #Illinois becomes 15th state to defy God by creating legal "marriage" based on the perversion of homosexuality. #tcot." -- Just putting LaBarbera's note in here for the historical record, for when Team Anti-Equality tries to whitewash the bigoted history of their movement.]

How sad for them that they're on the wrong side of history and so damn self-righteous and unapologetic about it.  When same-sex couples won equality through the courts, the big comeback of bigots was that judges were imposing their will on "the people" and that it was so tyrannical that it wasn't legislatures that were passing marriage equality laws.

I'm sure a new talking point will be how awful it is that legislatures are imposing their will on "the people" and how it's so awful that every marriage law in the nation isn't decided by a voter referendum.  These people just constantly adapt to try to make themselves relevant and enriched by their advocacy.

But, lest you think I end on a sour note, most importantly, congrats to same-sex couples and allies!  Time to convert my separate-and-unequal civil union into a marriage!  I believe my feelings at this time can best be expressed by a gif of Tina and Amy:


Did you know that studies indicate that you improve your celebration of LGBT-related victories by pressing the "cornify" button in Fannie's Room and watching some magical things happen?  I highly recommend it, and bonus points if you know what I'm even talking about.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Richard Dawkins Bemoans Loss of "Little Jar of Honey" at Airport!

I find this really funny because of Elevator-Gate.



And they say feminists don't have a sense of humor.

The not funny part of Dawkins being the butt of a joke here is the false moral equivalence it somewhat sets up. Richard Dawkins having to throw away his little jar of honey prior to boarding a plane is not actually just like Rebecca Watson gently suggesting that men maybe should not proposition her in elevators after talks about the objectification of women in atheism.

Dawkins is being made fun of on the Internet for him publicly complaining about a trivial inconvenience to himself. Watson, on the other hand, received rape and death threats and aggressive male semi-stalkers, for taking issue with something that Dawkins framed as a trivial problem.

Monday, November 4, 2013

NOM Peddles Gender Stereotypes in Illinois Marriage Fight

In its meddlesome post regarding my home state of Illinois' upcoming vote on marriage equality for same-sex couples, the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) reminds us that the conversation is not just about anti-gay bigotry it's also fundamentally about gender, claiming:
"Men and women make unique, irreplaceable, contributions to parenting. Both genders are needed for human flourishing."
With it being more of a PR liability for anti-gay organizations to be more explicitly homophobic, NOM has taken this more subtle gender-based approach for opposing equality.

The New Jersey-headquartered NOM's thesis rests in that mythical notion that men and women are complementary beings, with each spouse in a man-woman duo providing something the other lacks, by sheer virtue of their gender alone, thereby creating a sum that's somehow greater than the whole of its parts.  So to speak.

The argument is that same-sex couples are inferior to man-woman couples not because of sexual orientation, but because of their gender composition. NOM does not articulate, of course, what all of these "unique, irreplaceable, contributions to parenting" a woman makes that a man cannot, and that a man makes that a woman cannot.

I'm sure I'm not alone, however, in being super interested in seeing such a list should NOM ever take the time to think beyond soundbite-level and make those gender-based "contributions" available to the public.

In my experience, when gender traditionalists answer this question, their answers are absurd and make me think their circle of actual men and women they know must be like 5 people who are exactly like themselves. They will say things like, "Dads do rough and tumble stuff with their kids," as though no woman on Earth does or is even capable of such things!  Or they rely on weasel-words like, "Women tend to" - as though if women as a group do one thing less than men as a group do, then no individual woman ever in the world does that thing.  It's just such sloppy thinking that it seems almost like willful ignorance in service of privilege.

In fact, I reckon the details to NOM's gender soundbites don't matter much to the group's core supporters who are looking for that nice, civil, gender stereotype-y reason to oppose equality for a group it used to be much more popular to overtly hate and ridicule.

Doug Allen Study on Children of Same-Sex Couples
Same-Sex Marriage, Feminism, and Women

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Fun and Wikipedia, Again

Things have been busy, so I've been less able to do blog writing during the past week.

However, some stuff I've read recently includes this article on the so-called decline of Wikipedia, which the Tom Simonite attributes to the male-dominated based of editors who "operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers."

I've long been interested in contributing to Wikipedia, myself, and have contributed to a few articles over the years.  However, I can relate to feeling as though the barriers to consistent writing at Wikipedia have seemed insurmountable to someone like me with both limited time to learn the rules upon rules upon rules of editing at the site and limited interest in getting into editor wars in a space where those running it are estimated to be about 90% male.

I've contributed to a few articles related to women in sports and remember one of my first contributions being deleted by a user who said that Wikipedia wasn't about "political correctness." His comment was a total non sequitur in the context of my edit, and really just a lazy way to say "I don't care about women's sports, therefore no one else in the world does either," but this guy had power in the forum so that was that. I walked away from the site thinking, fuck it, and lost interest in volunteering my time, energy, and writing skills to the site at all.

I say that absolutely believing that Wikipedia needs more female editors. And, I can appreciate that the site has rules about civility and contributions even as I think those rules in practice are unwieldy and a real barrier to making the site better in terms of breadth of subject matter beyond what its current editor base finds interesting and noteworthy.

Those who enforce the rules in any given forum decide everything, and when those enforcers replicate traditional power structures their editing of content can be a real problem when that forum is a purported encyclopedia.

Anyway - what have you all been reading?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another Mainstream Journalist Discovers MRAs

[Content note: MRA shit, misogyny]

R. Tod Kelly at The Daily Beast has written a piece on the men's right movement. 

It's always interesting to me to see how those who are relatively new to men's rights activists (MRAs), as Kelly is, comprehend and then present the movement to their audience.

In all, I think Kelly does an ...okay job of representing the men's rights movement, noting that the aggressive extremists tend to detract from any valid points MRAs make. And, although Kelly doesn't outright say so, the reader can infer that the number one MRA strategy seems to be to destroy feminism and cut uppity women down as opposed to doing anything that will actually tangibly benefit men.

Of course, feminists, the targets of MRAs, have been noting all of that for years, so. No newsflash here, when Kelly notes at the end of his piece:
"What the MRM doesn’t seem to realize is that every time they lionize someone who says a four-year-old girl drowning is a good thing, or giggle over a leader bragging about taking sexual advantage of a woman who’s too drunk to understand what’s happening to her, or theorize that fat women want to be forcibly raped, or float a preposterous claim that women’s brains are physically incapable of comprehending morality, they only put those resources that much further out of reach. It is telling to note that of the professional male-victim advocacy organizations I spoke with, every single one specifically asked that I not allow readers to think they were in any way related to the MRM."
Ding ding ding! And there we have the dominant action item coming straight from the so-called manosphere: Calling women cunts for male victims of assault!

If you choose to read the entire article, which in general is too easy and forgiving of MRAs in my opinion, you'll notice that Kelly chooses to highlight a purported "superstar" of the movement.  It's not a very flattering portrayal of the this Next Big MRA Dude, as Kelly claims that he "relies on easily debunked male-pill conspiracy theories and reflexively labels anyone who question his conclusions a liar, idiot or psychopath."

Yet, oddly, if you a follow a link within Kelly's piece to the guy's forum, the guy seems to be very impressed by the quality of Kelly's article and depiction of himself - calling the piece the "best" on the men's rights movement that's ever been done in a mainstream publication and "very well done." He also boasts that he and Kelly are going to "grab some beers" in an upcoming weekend.

How neat for them.

It's also weird, right, that like no major feminists were interviewed in an article in which Kelly admits that the men's rights movement is built upon "the foundation of despising feminism"?  Feminists, unlike Kelly, actually have been dealing and interacting with MRAs for decades and, again, it's interesting to read a piece that seems to echo feminist complaints without explicitly referencing or including feminist critiques.

Like dominant conversations about same-sex marriage that are largely men talking to other men about an issue that is uniquely gender-based, I'm wary of "mainstream" conversations about and with MRAs being mostly same-sex conversations.

I mean, we're talking about a movement in which The Handmaid's Tale is largely taken for granted as a utopian fantasy rather than a dystopian nightmare.  Grabbing beers with MRA superstars isn't a luxury I'm particularly invested in, as a woman.

ABC Story on MRA Aggression Sparks MRA Bias in Comments