Wednesday, November 30, 2011

They Got Over a Hundred Gays Here So Some of Yous Are Going Home

Hey, did you hear about D2, that gay male softball team that had its 2nd place finish at the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA) World Series revoked? Apparently, an opposing team that had lost to D2 complained and said that the team had too many straight players. A strange investigation process then occurred that revealed that 3 allegedly-straight people were on the team instead of the allowed 2.


I want to first take note of the pettiness and jealousy that would inspire amateur softball players to actually go through the trouble of filing a protest after a loss at a tournament on the basis of an opposing team's overall sexual orientation composition. I know, rules are rules. But it's one thing for a team to be stacked with former semi-pro players, but to object based on the fact that a team supposedly has one more heterosexual than is allowed? Geez.

Now, private associations restrict their memberships all the time, and I have played in LGBT sports clubs before. After having grown up in very homophobic sports environments, I appreciate the experience of being part of a sports community that is accepting. I've been at some mainstream softball tournaments, for instance, where a woman felt the need to affirm her Normal Status by walking around with "I love dick" in permanent marker on her leg. Like, just so everyone was totally clear that she wasn't a big lesbo.

That being said, I question the practice of allowing protests based on the sexual orientation of opposing players. Especially if the policy tends to be invoked mostly if a team is doing well in a tournament. I have no idea if that's what usually happens in this particular league, but if the basis of the rule is to ensure an affirming and non-homophobic sports environment, wouldn't a more germane test be whether players are homophobic?

I've been around LGBT sports long enough to know that restricting membership to "gay people" is not a cure-all for homophobia, gender policing, biphobia, and transphobia in these leagues. For instance, some lesbians take real pride in "not being as dykey as some of those other teams."

Besides, I'm curious how the policy is implemented. In the D2 case, how do you even tell a male athlete is gay based on watching him play softball? What stereotypes are going on in people's heads that would make them suspect heterosexuality on the part of an opposing player? How would an accused straight person then prove he's actually gay?

And.... is it okay for people to be bisexual?

Let's look at the rule that was invoked to disqualify the team. It states that "a maximum of two Heterosexual players are permitted on a [world series] roster." Presumably then, bisexual players would not count toward the two-person limit on heterosexuals.

Yet, oddly, from the above-cited article:

"After [the championship game], officials with the gay athletic alliance called [the allegedly heterosexual players] separately into a conference room for a hearing to determine whether they were heterosexual or gay, the suit said.
They were asked 'very intrusive questions,' including what their sexual interests and preferences were, Thomas said.

Charles, who was D2's manager, asked whether he could say he was bisexual and was told, 'This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series,' the suit said."

However, in an open letter on its website reacting to this case, the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance's (NAGAAA) stated:

"The three plaintiffs did not identify themselves as bisexual during the 2008 Protest Hearing, in their appeal to the NAGAAA Commissioner, in their complaints to the Washington Human Rights Commission, or in their complaint suing NAGAAA. Nevertheless, all three players have now identified themselves as bisexual. NAGAAA recognizes that some individuals who were present in the room during the 2008 Protest Hearing apparently did not have the same understanding of NAGAAA’s definitions, as they applied to bisexual players, that NAGAAA’s leadership had. The Protest Committee voted Plaintiffs to be believed to be heterosexual, subjected them to the participation limit imposed by NAGAAA’s Rules, disqualified their team, and expunged their participation from the 2008 GSWS. The Protest Hearing included questioning and a voting procedure that Plaintiffs found to be offensive.

NAGAAA has since adopted new definitions that make clear that bisexual or transgender players are not subject to NAGAAA’s roster limits."

Interestingly, the rules (as revised 10/21/11) still state that a "maximum of two Heterosexual players" can be on a roster. That language is not necessarily inclusive of transgender players, since (a) gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate categories and (b) many transgender people are heterosexual. The rules further define heterosexual as "not gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender."

Weird. I wonder if they had input from transgender people on that one.

NAGAAA also stated that although it won the discrimination lawsuit that was filed against them, the organization has decided to recognize the D2 team as 2nd place winners in the tournament in order to reflect the organization's inclusivity of bisexual players. NAGAAA also clarified that it will keep its two-heterosexuals-per-team rule in accordance with a judge's ruling that doing so was permissible. (No word on whether NAGAAA will change its name to reflect its inclusivity of bisexuals and transgender people).

I strongly question the decision to keep the "2 heterosexuals" rule. Are non-LGBT people really vying in significant numbers to infilitrate and win the Gay World Series? I'm not sure it's necessary to subject teams to sexual orientation witch hunts initiated by potentially any team that's upset about losing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bad Lesbian Movies

So, during Thanksgiving vacay, I had a slight cold and was unable to sleep. When I am unable to sleep, one of my fave things to do is to watch bad lesbian* movies. Seriously, I have seen them all.

(*I use lesbian only here as opposed to "lesbian and bisexual" because it has been my TV and movie-watching experience that shows with self-described bisexual characters are even more rare than those with lesbian characters. Thus, for me to label this post as being about "lesbian and bisexual" movies seems inaccurate and, ironically, invisibilizing. Kind of like when certain magazines, blogs, and travel guides are labeled "gay and lesbian" even though they're obviously only targeted toward gay men).

So, what makes a bad lesbian movie, you might be asking? (Oh, by the way, this post is navel-gazey. In fact, I thought of it while in the throes of fever so there's that. Just move along now if that's not your thing.)

In my humble opinion, bad lesbian movies:

A) Are Overly-Political

I know, that coming from me. LOL.

Yet, despite what one might assume by reading my radicalesbianfeminazioogedyboogedy blog, I think some lesbian movies and shows go a little overboard with the political themes, so much so that the activism feels contrived. I like a movie that is progressive and social justice-y, but in an understated way.

See, I get political burnout pretty easily, so, when I watch TV and movies, I often just want to be entertained. Although, I should also note that I'm not easily entertained by much of the hetero-dude-centric mainstream TV and movies. I should also note that I don't, actually, go out actively looking for things to get annoyed about. That just happens to be a natural consequence of watching the aforementioned bits of "entertainment."

As my Netflix suggestion queue likes to explain, I have a strong preference for "Gay and Lesbian Movies With a Strong Female Lead." If you put the word "shallow" at the beginning of that phrase, that would probably be a more accurate descriptor. Unfortunately, such shows are few and far between.

Think: D.E.B.S. and Imagine Me & You, but NOT Itty Bitty Titty Committee (srsly its portrayal of radical feminist lesbians? Granted the characters are supposed to be teenagers, but still, I am clearly way too boring of a feminist).

Anyway, my point is that my favorite scenes in The L Word were not, say, of the characters forming a human chain in front of Bette's "obscene" art gallery, they were of the gang just hanging out in the coffee shop talking about ladies. And, well, isn't women talking with women about other women already way subversive in TV and film?

B) Use Lesbians To Drive the Development the Heterosexual Characters

The movie that inspired this post, which I watched while sick mind you, was Love on the Side. It starts off okay. A new lady, Linda, comes to a small town. She's hot and, despite garnering the attention of the local straight dudes, she only has eyes for the waitress at a local diner, Eve.

Linda, you see, is an Avowed Lesbian. In a small town. Complications ensue. Dun dun dun.

Eve is heterosexual and totally into this asshole guy named Jeff. But, when Linda expresses her interest in Eve, Eve appears to become kind of.... curious. Linda looks like a model and unlike Jeff, she is smart, is nice to Eve, and she encourages Eve's art hobby. (As a tangential note, Eve makes several comments about herself that indicate we're supposed to view her as fat and kind of homely. I think "shorter than Linda, not fat, and conventionally attractive" would be a more accurate descriptor of Eve, but whatevs).

Anyway, the movie continues with Eve and Linda getting to know one another better, with Linda chain-smoking a lot (it's how she stays so thin and hot, apparently), with Linda posing nude for Eve to draw her (which, admittedly, Linda initiatied in kind of a creepy and forward manner by randomly taking off her shirt when the two were alone together, because lesbians totally do that all the time!), and with Eve and Linda deciding to go on a double-date with Jeff and another guy. As two heterosexual couples, not two same-sex couples.

I don't know. It's all very strange. Probably because it involves an orgy of unreciprocated lust. Eve wants Jeff, Jeff wants Linda, and Linda wants Eve. (No one wants the poor sap Linda took on the double-date).

Because this all takes place in a small town, the viewer is led to anticipate that maybe this movie is Eve's coming-out story. Like, maybe she'll finally realize that Jeff has very few redeeming qualities and that, by comparison, Lesbian Linda From The City is quite the catch. But, about halfway through, we learn that nope, it's not that story at all.

Because actually, this story is Jeff The Asshole's story. See, at a certain point, Jeff realizes that Linda really is a lesbian, really isn't interested in him, and that he really doesn't have a chance with her. After Linda comes to the same realization about Eve's heterosexuality, Linda gives Jeff a good talking to about how great Eve is and how he doesn't even appreciate Eve's greatness. (At this point, I had taken another shot of Robitussin, but still, I wasn't sure what was so awesome about Eve. I mean, she's okay and I would be nice to her and stuff. But I also wasn't understanding Linda's obsession, which seems to have sprung forth from the aether within seconds of meeting her).

Anyway. So, naturally, after spending much of his adult life alternately ignoring and being a jerk to Eve, Jeff begins modeling his behavior after Linda's and starts Being Nice to Eve. For instance, he thinks it's swell that she's such a good cook and then he even takes down the playboy pinups hanging on his wall. He becomes a really great guy, basically.

These realizations and shifts in behavior seemingly occur overnight, so it's not clear what motivated them. Nor is it clear what happened to Linda from about 3/4 of the movie onward. She seems to have hooked up with some other random lady in town and they are last seen wearing matching waitress outfits at the diner. So.... I guess Linda is over Eve and she now lives and works with her new lesbian lover? (Insert U-haul joke here). Who knows. Who cares?

Because, well, what's important to remember here is that Lesbian Linda totally helped some straight guy get the lady in the end (and, I tell ya, there just are not enough movies where the guy gets the lady in the end). Because: Jeff and Eve now live together in New York and are probably going to get married! And bonus: not only did Lesbian Linda help Jeff become a Nice Guy who will treat Eve right, she encouraged Eve to go to art school and gave her the confidence to actually move from her small town to the Big City!


It's like someone started to produce a lesbian movie and then halfway through decided to turn it into a bad heterosexual romantic comedy in hopes of it Appealing To A Wider Audience Base. Which is too bad, because I think many viewers would have actually found an Eve/Linda romance-coming-out-story more appealing, truer to the characters, and more compelling than Asshole Becomes Nice, Gets Lady ( + We Have a Hot Lesbian To Look At).

C) Result In the Death of a Lesbian Character

I'm not okay with the death of Tara Maclay, but at some point I would like to address the Dead/Evil Lesbian Cliche and what is and is not offensive about it in a post of its own.

Since I'm too lazy to do that today, I'll just leave it at this: Writers and producers have to be careful about killing off lesbian characters and also, I would argue, Strong Female Leads in general. Until either are given more representation in TV and film, people are going to react strongly to the deaths of these characters.

My reaction to Tara dying in Buffy* wasn't so much that "It's always wrong to kill lesbian characters!" but more "Can't we just have one tiny little fucking non-tragic depiction of a lesbian relationship in life?"

*Also, do things still need spoiler alerts if they happened a decade ago?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Over at Skepchick, I really liked new blogger Natalie's post asking to what extent "social concerns" should be incorporated into the skeptic agenda.

Writing from the perspective of a feminist, transgender rights advocate, and skeptic, she raises some very good questions relevant to any movement that is not comprised of people who all share the same exact identity.

I think a lot about Liss' quote "there is no neutral in rape culture," and I think that any good skeptic would want to have an awareness of hir biases. As Natalie notes, "it's hard to be an unbiased thinker when you're immersed in a biased culture." If we accept that we live in a biased culture and you're not examining your biases and remaining open to the fact that you have them, you're going to be complict in preserving those biases within the culture.

Secondly, when social concerns are not incorporated into the skeptic agenda, it often leads to alienation of less privileged groups and a perpetuation of certain privileges. (See also, Why I'm A Feminist). For as skeptical as some people can be about religion and pseudo-science, it is remarkable how not skeptical they can be about prevailing narratives of gender.

In addition to the more general topic, Natalie discusses the assumptions that the medical community historically made about gender in the treatment of transgenderism. In short, the medical community has not always been skeptical enough of gender, and specifically which aspects of gender are social constructs and which are biological.

It's a great read and I look forward to reading more of her contributions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Non Sequitur Alert

Renee over at anti-LGBT blog Opine Editorials recently made a strange observation.

First, she noted an NPR article that said:

"'There are only 250 beds for 3,800 homeless kids in New York City; waiting lists are huge. Facing a $10 billion deficit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made compromises with the New York state Legislature. Budget cuts would have taken 100 of those beds away. The city council restored monies cut from both the city and state budgets, so no beds have been cut.'"

This NPR article, by the way, discussed how homeless youth are disproportionately LGBT, often because they have been kicked out of their homes.

So, from those facts, Renee directly proceeded to claim:

"When you view the gay lobby, like any other lobby, they begin to look like a fat-cat special interest. They influence politicians by filling up the campaign coffers and not on progressive ideals."


As far as I can surmise, Renee seems to be arguing that "the gay lobby" is for sure a "fat-cat special interest" because that lobby successfully advocated to be able to continue meeting a whopping 6% of homeless youths' housing needs, instead of the proposed 4% that would have resulted from the budget cuts.

I guess what I find darkly comedic about her claim is that, well, in what logical universe are disproportionate rates of LGBT homelessness and a gross inability to meet that group's needs supposed to be taken as a sign of.... Incredible Power And Influence?

I mean come on. I know anti-gays are all about spreading the message regarding The Incredible Power Of The Gay, but Renee's approach doesn't seem to be the wisest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Today in the Kyriachy: On "Cis"

[content/trigger warning: post contains examples of transphobic and homophobic slurs]

Over at Bilerico, a side discussion popped up in a column about Dan Savage getting "glitter-bombed" for using the word "tranny" and "shemale." The side discussion is not a new one, for I have seen it crop up every now and then in radical feminist spaces as well, but a gay male commenter took issue with the label "cis," and so Bilerico dedicated a blogpost to that topic. Specifically, the man said:

"The people [glitter-bombing] Dan don't have a problem throwing around the word Cis, a word that was created by and pushed onto non trans people by the trans community. A term that I and many others find offensive yet trans people continue to push this word and attempt to foist it upon us. Maybe you should think about that before you blame others for simply using words that have been around for ages that were not directed at any one person in particular but were simply being repeated by Dan that were part of a question he was asked. I am going to start glitter bombing the next Trans person I hear use the term Cis to describe me."

Okay. So. Like two days ago was Transgender Day of Remembrance and, with that background in my head, it's been really hard for me to give two shits about this guy's complaint. I'm being upfront about that. But I also did take time to re-read and re-think this post several times to delete some instances where I thought I was being kind of.... harsh on dude.

So, there's that.

And yet, although I find the comment to be *clears throat* problematic because it evidences some serious privilege, it did raise some interesting points of conversation and divergence within the QUILTBAG "community." (I use quotes there because is it even accurate to talk about QUILTBAG as though it's a community?)

Anyway, one: This man who was complaining, unfortunately, failed to explain what specifically he found so offensive about the word "cis." His chief complaint seemed to be that the word was, in his estimation, "foisted" upon cis people by trans* people. As though it's unfair that there wasn't, like, a vote that he got to take part in about it at the last Gay Agenda meeting.

And yet, in all seriousness, the word itself, as Tobi at Bilerico notes in the above-cited link, is value neutral in that it denotes neither superiority or inferiority of being cis relative to being trans*. It simply doesn't have the history, or power behind it, of words like "faggot" or "dyke." Without additional context or examples of what he finds so offensive, his argument isn't convincing. If a person feels offended but can't or doesn't articulate why the "offense" contributes to the oppression of cis people, is it really fair to demand a ban on that descriptive word?

Indeed, a person has to read the subtext of his later comments at Bilerico to get at what he finds so very offensive about being called "cis." His comments suggest that it's less the term "cis" that he objects to, and more the act of others stating that cis people have relative privilege that he finds so offensive. He says:

"I will again repeat that I don't like the way I have often seen Cis used both on Bilerico and on PHB. You can call it privilege if that makes you sleep better at night but that does not change how I feel about the word. It is patently obvious that T's could care less how LGB's feel about the term. Just remember that when you don't like how your being referenced.

Call me non-trans, gay, queer, faggot or pick any word you choose, I still find every one of those terms less offensive than I do being called cisgenger....

The overt hostility by T's against gay white men in particular and how T's use the word cisgendered or cis as a slur or sneeringly is offensive to me. "

Note, because this man fails to provide concrete examples of transgender people using cis as a slur or "sneeringly," it's difficult to ascertain what he's talking about. But, I've been around Internet for awhile and so that "against gay white men in particular" is a big tip off. For, what group within the GLBT community both tends to hold disproportionate amounts of influence/power and, like Dan Savage, is regularly criticized within that community for its intersectionality/privilege, erm, "issues"?

Putting aside the irony of this man casually referring to transgender people as "T's" (is that rude?) while demanding that they call him what he wants to be called, I contend that what this man is suggesting is that while it's sad when transgender people are oppressed, what's really sad is how cis people feel about being told they have privilege.

Like, anyone else big time curious what this guy said to evoke a "sneering" response from a trans* person on Internet? And, given that a sneer is facial expression, how on earth did this guy ascertain that a response in the written form was "sneering" in the first place?

You know, for as much as some people claim that certain groups of people (minorities, feminists, other No-Fun PC buzzkill types) just look for shit to get mad about, it's abundantly clear that the mere act of typing statements to other people while avowedly trans* (or feminist, or both!) is enough to send some people ass over heals onto the fainting couch. It's as though some men of relative privilege are so utterly shocked and awed that their opinions aren't automatically deferred to that they think of course the other person just hates white cis men and is totally making mean faces at me over Internet.


Two. The commenter also said this:

"Wasting energy glitterbombing our allies is time wasted from fighting our real enemies. You might as well run out and vote for Herman Cain or Michele Bachman over Obama. It is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. That was my overall point."

So, yeah, I don't agree with the glitter-bombing tactic. I'm not sure it's "violent," but it does make Dan Savage and his fans more defensive than anything. But, also, whenever cis white gay men "people who as a group possess more privilege relative to other groups they are allegedly allied with" claim that "our" community has a standard set of "real enemies" or "most important goals" or anything akin to a Universal Game Plan, I'm always curious what they mean.

I like to joke about the Gay Agenda, but I wasn't aware that it was a real thing in the real world where people got together and mapped out which people constitute "our" authentic foes and allies.

Like, who specifically is in the category "we" and "our"?

And who exactly are "our real enemies"? People who oppose gay rights? People who oppose same-sex marriage? People who say "fag"?

What about people who say "tranny"? Do we give gay people a pass on that? Or is it only conservatives who get called out for that one? Or, what about gay men who mock female politicians' outfits and looks? Don't their actions harm members of the LGBT community too?

I guess this has been a long-winded way of saying that it's really really hard for me to give two shits about cis people who claim to be "offended" by the term "cis," when it's patently clear that their primary discomfort with the word is that it implies privilege. It implies privilege because it is a privilege to be cis. Unfortunately, when some people think they're winning every single gold medal in the Oppression Olympics, I think it can be really difficult for them to hear that they might be part of the problem for other people.

To me, a somewhat parallel situation would be if a white lesbian demanded not to be called "white," because people of color sometimes use the word "white" to signify that we live in a society that privileges whiteness, but as a lesbian she doesn't feel very privileged and in fact is "offended" by that "accusation."

To eradicate these labels would chip away out our ability to describe these privileges, thereby maintaining them. And, well, what Liss said: "if your revolution doesn't implicitly and explicitly include a rejection of misogyny and other intersectional marginalizations, then you're not staging a revolution: You're staging a change in management."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Missing Gender Narratives Regarding Penn State

[content/trigger warning: this post contains references to sexual assault and child sexual assault]

It can be precarious for feminist women to examine and critique instances of mass public outrage aimed at the rape of young boys (and the subsequent cover-ups). When those who are already widely perceived as being "man-hating" compare the outrage that occurs when boys are victimized by men to the apologism that often occurs when women are victimized by men, some will inevitably walk away with the message that Feminists Are Opposed To People Being Outraged At the Rape of Boys.

That being said, Historiann makes a good point:

"It’s gratifying to see so many sports writers and other male commentators decrying the culture of corruption that big-time men’s college sports breeds. Really it is. However, feminists have pointed out for decades that football teams are dangerous to women and that women get raped and their rapes covered up and denied by these same teams and their all-male, extraordinarily well-compensated leadership."

Likewise, a commenter here made a salient point:

"I wish I was shocked, but I've seen something similar first hand and I'm not at all surprised and wonder what else went on in that football program, because if they were willing to overlook child rape and abuse? They were willing to overlook everything."

I have seen conservative, anti-feminist male bloggers literally advocate for the vigilante murder of child rapists, and yet who rarely, if ever, talk about rape or sexual assault in any other context. Certainly not when football stars are raping women.

It's strange, but not surprising.

I contend that at least part of why people "overlook" things that feminists say is precisely because it's largely taken as a given that feminists are Hysterical Man-Hating Harpies Who Deserve To Be Ignored. It's absolutely no big fucking surprise, of course, to feminists that men would rape people and that other men would cover it up because More Important Interests are at stake. But sportswriters, male commentators, anti-feminists, and the general public pretend (?) to be so very shocked and appalled when things like this happen.

It's like, "Gee, can I just get a man to say what I've been saying all along so people will maybe take it seriously?"

I'm currently reading Dave Cullen's book Columbine, an account of the school shootings, and one thing that has stood out to me so far was that one of the killers repeatedly threatened and bullied another student. Like, there seemed to be some major warning signs with these kids. So much so that the bullied student's mother went to the police and tried to talk to the killer's parents multiple times so they would control their son. The father of the killer dismissed the woman as "hysterical" and instead believed that his son was adequately responding to his discipline.

(Hint: He really wasn't).

So, yeah. It's frustrating that feminists regularly note various warning signs that institutions and people are abusing power and that we live in a culture that entitles some people to rape, and have those warnings regularly dismissed and ignored because OMG Teh Feminazis Are SO SHRILL AND HYSTERICAL! That's why those accusations that feminists are "man-haters" are so ironic- not only because they're lazy (and usually a case of woman-hating projection) but because they further marginalize those who actually think and talk about this stuff on a regular basis, which further enables Penn State-like situations.

It also has not been lost on me, with respect to the big scandals, that the victimizers and those covering up for them have been, primarily, men. Penn State. The Catholic Church. The Boy Scouts. These are institutions that are male-centered, at least one of which is also male-supremacist. Gender seems relevant to note, but I haven't really seen it noted much and I'm not sure what that means. (Historiann also noted this).

Do other commentators think gender is irrelevant when it's men raping boys, and other men covering up that rape, so as to protect the reputations of other men and the institutions in which they dominate?

Do people think gender is irrelevant because they, perhaps without even realizing, don't really view men as having a gender? (Which would accord with men being thought of as the Default Human Being).

Do people just assume that if women had the institutional power that men had, then they too would engage in these sexual assaults and cover-ups? (And no, I'm not naive to the fact that women too can assault kids and abuse power, I'm just not sure there's been an equivalent situation with women raping people and having other women cover it up in order to protect women's power in major institutions...?).

I've certainly seen people bring up gender insofar as they want to blame these instances on "homosexuals," but that argument seems to mostly serve the purpose of exonerating heterosexual men from the category of predator and fixing gay men there. In addition to vilifying gay men, that tactic also suggests that men raping girls isn't a significant problem, because gay = predator and heterosexual = safe.

Is this how heterosexual male power perpetuates? Its preservation trumps all other concerns?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day "set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice." From the website:

"Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives. This trend shows no sign of abating.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten."

I don't have much to add, but I would like to light a candle in solidarity, vigil, and respect for transgender women and men who have been killed because of their identities, who have been victims of violence, and who live in fear of violence and harassment.


I would also like to note that on November 17, Chicago's transgender, bisexual, lesbian, and gay community lost Lois Bates, an African-American transwoman, leader, mentor, and activist highly involved in many overlapping communities. Her death, according to news reports, does not seem to have been violence-related, but each year she hosted a Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Chicago and was set to host today's event.

My heart goes out to her friends, family, and colleagues.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Myth of Mars and Venus

Via Ally Fogg in The Guardian:

"In a recent meta-analysis, Petersen and Hyde pooled 834 studies from 87 countries and seven national data sets to give them over a million subjects. While hundreds of gender differences were found, almost all were marginal – only a handful could be described as persistent and pronounced. Importantly, the more gender-equal societies become, the more those differences diminish. Forget Mars and Venus: it's more like Men are from Manchester, Women are from Salford.

On topics of sexual behaviour and sexual politics, we can argue all day about what is moral, what is sensible, what is practical, what is just. Let's not get distracted by what is natural. There is really no such thing."

Popular "common sense" narratives about gender posit that, compared to women, Men Are Dirty Pigs Who Are Obsessed With Sex, and that this sex difference is biological or innate. Based on this stereotype, some further argue that (a) it is women's role in heterosexual relationships to tame men and that (b) marriage is the vehicle through which men's sexual urges are channeled into one person.

Other narratives say that Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus, suggesting that men and women are so different that they are almost alien species to one another. Some religious narratives claim that men and women are "complementary" to one another, not only sexually, but personality-wise as well.

The meta-analysis, available at the embedded link above (in PDF form), is an interesting read for those interested in gender issues and differences. A snippet:

"The gender similarities hypothesis suggests that men and women are very similar for most, but not all, psychological variables. Evidence from numerous meta-analyses supports this hypothesis by indicating that gender differences are small or close to zero in areas such as cognitive abilities, psychological well being, and self-esteem (Hyde, 2005).....

This meta-analysis indicated that gender differences in sexual behaviors and attitudes may not be as large as popular opinion suggests. In support of the gender similarities hypothesis, small gender differences for the majority of sexual behaviors and attitudes suggest that men and women are more similar than they are different in terms of sexuality."

I wonder, how might popular narratives about men and sexuality be unfair to men (and women)? How might the message, sometimes implicit and other times explicit, that marriage exists to entrap men and control their sexualities be a bad PR campaign for marriage?

[Cross-posted at Family Scholars Blog. It might be interesting to see if and how non-feminists and anti-feminists react to this "revelation."]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

"They came in and she introduced herself and I shook her hand and I said, 'Is this your sister?' And she said, 'No, this is my partner.' And I said 'okay' and I asked them to sit down because we needed to talk. I said 'I will tell you that I'm a Christian and I do have convictions and I'm sorry to tell you that I'm not going to be able to do your cake.'"

-Victoria Childress, owner of a cake-baking business, speaking about how she refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding.

Although I have experienced how degrading situations like this can be, I also found this instance kind of funny. Because it's a cake. A freaking cake. That would later be consumed by GaY PeOpLe OOGEDY BOOGEDY WOOGEDY!

I mean, it's been a long time since I was in Bible school, but I do not remember Jesus saying anything about how it's prohibited to bake cakes for lesbians.

In an interview, Childress explained that she refused to bake the women's cake because of "her convictions for their lifestyle," and not "to discriminate against them."

So. Yeah.

One, we see that apparent desperation some people have about wanting to act bigoted but not be called bigoted. Like, her actions constitute the very essence of discrimination in that she's treating a same-sex couple differently than she treats heterosexual couples because of their belonging to a group she has "convictions" about, but she's all I'm Not Trying To Discriminate Against Them Or Anything. As though saying it's not discrimination magically makes it Un-Discrimination.

Two. Why is it always same-sex couples and GLBT people that Religious People With Strong Convictions feel this extra special need to discriminate against as opposed to other "sinners"? Like, lady probably doesn't turn down business from heterosexuals who have been married multiple times, right? She probably doesn't make people fill out forms attesting that they follow the Ten Commandments, right? But when it comes to gay weddings she's all Thou Shalt Not Bake This Cake, like it's some Big-Time Stand For Morality.

It's like, really, this is your battle?

Whatevs. Pie is better anyway.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


[content/trigger warning: threats, misogyny]

Sady over at Tiger Beatdown started a Twitter hashtag thing where women and feminist bloggers shared some of the violent, threatening things that people (presumably most of them men) have said to her for being an Internet Feminist.

I'm not big on the Twitter so I'm late to the party as usual, but I thought I'd contribute as well.

I think the best comment (and by best I mean, "you're a woman-hating, violent creep, but thanks for proving my point") I've received was when I wrote a post about how pervasive and acceptable woman-hating is and dude writes a comment to me that says:

"What a supid [sic] nasty man hating cunt you are.

A rape in the dead of night is the only chance you EVER have of getting fucked."

In light of Sady's campaign, I can't help but be reminded of some of the comments that gay men made about my Family Scholars Blog post on bullying. If you remember, one of them tried to pressure me into using my full name, even after I told him that feminist bloggers, including myself, receive rape threats. Another commenter said that I deserved the sexist comments because I admit to a feminist identity and use this identity as a "shield."

A freaking shield. As though being a feminist blogger offers women some sort of..... protection from harassment?

LOL in what utopia is dude living in and how do I get there?

Many people, even presumed political allies, apparently have no idea of the extent to which this aggression against female bloggers is an issue. Of course, I do realize I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt with that assumption. The alternative, that they know it exists and they just don't give a shit, is too depressing to take seriously.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Penn State

[Content/trigger warning: Child sexual abuse, homophobia]

If you watch NCAA sports, you're probably familiar with those commercials where student-athletes say, "almost all of us are going pro in something other than sports," the point of which is to remind viewers that NCAA sports are really all about preparing student-athletes to become valuable, productive members of society.

Indeed, it is true that most NCAA athletes will not have professional careers in sports, but those commercials assume a certain naivete on the part of the viewers. We're asked to pretend that the Big Time College Sports that we're watching aren't actually a multi-million dollar business, but rather, a values-building endeavor of great import to the moral character of the US.

And yet, when we stop suspending disbelief, we notice that this message is contrasted with another recurring message in sports, not just in the NCAA, but oftentimes at all institutional levels:

"Win and you can do anything to anyone you want; you’ll be protected."

Especially if you're a superstar! (See, eg, Ben Roethlisberger, Kobe Bryant, and basically...this)

I don't have a lot to say about the Penn State child sexual assault/abuse/rape scandal (background reading here [TW]), but the above quote seems appropriate if university officials buried instances of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged multiple acts of child abuse/rape, at least one account of which is alleged to have occurred in a Penn State locker room, in order to protect a football program and institution.

I'm also disgusted by the Penn State students, some of whom have been violent, who've protested the Board of Trustee's decision to fire football coach Joe Paterno for his handling of the situation. Some of the quotes, seriously? (Example from one student: "It's not fair. The board is an embarrassment to our school and a disservice to the student population.").

I get that people are really into having Their Team and Their School and all that. But, like, take the football-centric goggles off for a second and get a little perspective. If the allegations are true, keeping instances of child rape under wraps in order to protect an institution's image is what's an embarassment to your school, dudebro.

The above "win and you can do anything" quote, by the way, is a take-away message from Training Rules- a film about former Penn State coach Renee Portland.

Portland, if you remember, is a Legendary Basketball Coach who had a "no lesbians" policy on the teams she coached. She acknowledged her discriminatory policy in the Chicago Sun-Times in 1986, and went on to coach at Penn State for another 21 years. In 2006, a former player filed a lawsuit against Portland and Penn State, and an internal investigation finally found that she created "a hostile, intimidating, and offensive environment" on the basis of sexual orientation.

For this, Penn State suspended her for one game and fined her $10,000. Portland ultimately resigned, with Penn State's athletic director claiming that she wasn't forced out of her position.

Of course not.

Win and you can do anything you want. You'll be protected.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Odds 'N Ends

1. Apparently the International Boxing Association may soon require female boxers to wear skirts. Via Sociological Images

"The President of the Association, Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, argues that it will allow viewers to tell the difference between the men and the women who currently wear the same uniforms, including headgear. Right now the skirt is an optional variation on the official uniform but, Dr. Wu says, 'After we hear about its comfort and how easy it is to compete in the uniform, it may be compulsory.'

At the European Championships in Rotterdam last week, female boxers from Poland and Romania adopted the new uniform. A coach of the Poland team said: 'By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression.'”

One is led to wonder, why the big need to distinguish between men and women? If they're so comfortable and easy to compete in, why aren't we suggesting men wear them as well? I think Lisa Wade answers these questions for us: "Discomfort with the lack of actual differences between men and women sometimes leads individuals to encourage or enforce artificial ones."

2. I'm not a big reader of Huffington Post, but Mignon R. Moore recently posted there about some of the findings in her book Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships, and Motherhood Among Black Women, in which she followed 100 middle-class and working-class black lesbians:

"The women I interviewed are the types of lesbian families that are 'invisible' to many LGBT scholars, activists and organization leaders, and one consequence of this invisibility is a failure to understand how they differ from more visible members of the LGBT community and determine which issues are important for their happiness and success. By ignoring LGBT people of color and their families, the movement stifles its own growth and leaves behind significant populations that are very much in need of visibility, advocacy and equal treatment.

Many public policy implications emerge from these data. Because black same-sex couples are more economically disadvantaged on average than are white same-sex couples, at the same time that they are more likely to be raising children, they are disproportionately harmed by laws that limit access of sexual minorities to certain rights, like the ability to foster and adopt children or to include children they co-parent with a same-sex partner on their health insurance plans. Such laws are most prevalent in Southern states with the largest black populations and the highest rates of parenting among black same-sex couples. When we do not understand the totality of who our families are and the needs they have, we reduce the effectiveness of the larger strategies we promote for LGBT empowerment."

It's not a big secret that the white male dominated "GLBT" movement suffers from serious intersectionality failures. I see these failures regularly dismissed as "Just a bunch of self-centered PC whining that makes 'us' look bad." So yeah, no big surprise either that 100% of QUILTBAG people aren't all on board with Team Tolerance's agenda (which seems to be, IMO, securing same-sex marriage rights and not criticizing Dan Savage).

So, yeah. I liked Moore's ending suggestion: LGBT people of color "might be more active in promoting LGBT advocacy efforts if they felt those efforts included their voices and incorporated more of the issues that are important to them."

3. This article for sure made me more of a vegetarian.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On Unpaid Feminist Blogging

Via Courtney E. Martin, in The Nation:

"This leads us to the biggest misperception of all—this one even held by many bloggers and online organizers themselves: that online feminism is free. It’s not. Many feminists innovated remarkably early on in the Internet’s existence, founding blogs and online communities, but we’ve largely stalled in progress over the last few years because we are under-resourced and overwhelmed. Samhita Mukhopadhyay, the executive editor of, explains, 'Blogging has become the third shift. You do your activist work, then you have a job to make money and then you blog on top of that. It’s completely unsupported".....

It’s time to mature into the second stage—in which online feminism is funded, forward-thinking and just as fierce. It’s time for all of us—bloggers, organizers, philanthropists and business experts alike—to put our heads together and figure out how to create a robust, sustainable online space that can serve as the 'women’s center in the sky' (as Gloria Steinem recently put it to me) for the next generation."

When I started blogging, I never expected to get paid for it or for it to turn into a career. As I have continued to blog, mostly in my precious free time, it has come to feel somewhat like work. Work that I usually enjoy, yes, but work nonetheless, and work that I don't get paid for. Although, I also appreciate that a regular blogging schedule helps me refine my writing and argumentation skills. It's difficult to become good at either if a person doesn't do them regularly.

Anyway, as discussed in the above-cited article, feminist blogs have several models for garnering money. I haven't explored these models for this blog in any great depth, mostly due to lack of time, but I am generally opposed to ads. From time to time I am approached to "write articles about certain books or products" (which I recognize as a way of asking for free ad space and marketing), and I usually turn down those offers or ignore them. Although, if the book is feminist in nature, or relevant to this blog, I have accepted these offers (while noting in my posts when I've received free review copies of particular books I've reviewed here).

So, you know, I support the "maturation" of feminist blogging that generates revenue, I'm just not sure what that model looks like. I'm also not sure the lack of funding equates, as Martin argues, with feminist blogging being the domain of the femininst "elite" (because "who else can afford to blog unpaid?"). That argument seems to assume that the majority of feminist bloggers sit in front of their computers all day, perhaps being fanned with giant leaves and being fed peeled grapes, looking for stuff to get mad about on Internet*.

I suspect that the reality is more that those who can "afford to blog unpaid" are those who work full-time jobs and/or part-time jobs in order to pay the bills and yet who carve out time to also run a blog, or who are students, or who don't work but are living on some sort of fixed income. With free blogging platforms available, blogging doesn't have to be a costly endeavor. Perhaps a primary barrier would be whether or not one has Internet service at home, and I'm not sure possessing Internet service (or a smartphone) places a person into the category of "elite."

My point is that feminist activism on Internet is probably, in many cases, some people's only means of engaging with other feminists and learning about feminism. I am far more likely to blog and read about feminism on Internet than I am, say, to make time in my busy schedule to go to a NOW meeting (or something, does NOW even have meetings that people go to?)

Anyway, along those lines, what keeps me blogging are the occasional comments and emails from people who tell me that something I wrote has helped me them in some way- whether it's in recognizing sexism, countering anti-feminism, or just entertaining them. It's nice not to know I'm not just sending stuff out into a void.

I check my blog stats from time to time, so I know lots more people read this blog than comment on it, so I guess I'm curious, why do you continue to read this blog? Why do you read other feminist blogs? How do you think feminist blogging affects society?

*ps- 'Member when Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel tried to talk about "Internet" in 1994?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Michigan Anti-Bullying Bill Passes Senate

Relevant to my recent series on civility and bullying, Michigan's Senate recently passed "Matt's Safe School Law" (Senate Bill 137), a bill intended to address school bullying and which would require school boards to adopt and implement anti-bullying policies.

The bill has generated much controversy for including an apparent exception for bullying that is motivated by "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction." Because many of the articles I've seen regarding this bill have seemed to be mostly talking points rather than analysis of the text itself, I decided to take a look at the text (which is cited at the above link) and see what this was all about.

Integral to any anti-bullying initiative or law is the definition of bullying.

Accordingly, the bill defines bullying as, "any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, by a pupil directed at 1 or more other pupils that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm 1 or more pupils either directly or indirectly by [basically doing anything that interferes with a student's education or participation in school activities, that causes physical or mental harm to the students, or that interferes with the school's operations]."

The "reasonable person" standard is always tricky. It assumes an objective take on what's reasonable and, oftentimes, it's not those who belong to regularly-victimized groups who are thought to have that objective (or reasonable) viewpoint. Some of the US' Worst Court Cases For Women, for instance, are predicated on the sexist notion that the viewpoints of men regarding rape, women's suffrage, and women's right to practice certain professions are more objective and legitimate than women's viewpoints regarding such matters.

Similarly, those who are deemed arbiters of which acts and statements constitute bullying have a real power to legitimize and perpetuate hostility against certain groups of people by simply "failing to see" any resulting harm that bullies cause.

For instance, the bill also mandates that a school board's anti-bullying policy must include a statement against, and impose sanctions upon, "false accusations of bullying." If student-on-student sexual harassment, which nearly half of all students report experiencing, is regularly treated by "reasonable people" with "boys will be boys" or "girls aren't capable of harassing boys" dismissals, will students become even more reluctant to report it if they fear they will be punished for making "false accusations of bullying"?

The power to define also cuts to another issue, one raised in my previous post on bullying and civility: Is one only capable of being a victim of bullying if one belongs to a recognized oppressed group? Or, are all schoolchildren, by virtue of their age and their "captivity" in school environments capable of being bullied?

The bill would agree with the latter, as it explicitly states that a school board's anti-bullying policy must include a "provision indicating that all pupils are protected under the policy and that bullying is equally prohibited without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus." I lean toward agreeing with this broader definition than with an enumerated list of officially-recognized victims, because I think an enumerated list creates acceptable and unacceptable targets of hostility, an act which can in turn trivialize other kids' very real experiences of pain. Would weight, for instance, be included? What about ridiculing kids for being adopted, being donor-conceived, or for having same-sex parents?

Problematically though, the "equally prohibited" provision conflicts with the later provision regarding the special exception for acts and statements motivated by religious or moral conviction, thereby enumerating acceptable and unacceptable forms of hostility. That provision begins:

"This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States or under Article I of the State Constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian."

Well, yeah. The First Amendment of the US Constitution (and Michigan's Constitution) would trump a state law anyway. It's not like merely saying, within the text of a law, that a law isn't unconstitutional magically makes it so. Certainly not in SCOTUS' eyes. So, like, whenever you see such a provision in any law, it should start to raise a red flag. The special religious/exception provision continues:

"This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian."

So here, to me, the red flag is ultimately hoisted. The bill seems to be making the implicit argument that because (a) "certain types of statements against certain types of people" (I insert sarcastic quotes here because many of us know which types of people tend to be singled out by those with "sincerely held religious belief or moral convictions") constitute Freedom of Speech/Religion, then (b) this bill is trying not to violate religous people's right to share with others their "sincerely held religious belief[s] or moral conviction[s]" about those certain types of people.

And so, like I was saying above. The power to define what constitutes bullying is a big power to have. Despite how the bill says that all bullying is prohibited "without regard to its ... motivating animus," the bill also potentially un-categorizes religiously-based and morally-based bullying as bullying. Given that some religious people do make written or verbal statements that result in harm to LGBT people, and that many reasonable people recognize such statements as harmful, this law's effect could be to say that "no, that's not bullying, it's just people stating sincere (and civil? kind?) religious beliefs."

Or, it's saying that certain statements may constitute bullying, but religious people's free speech/religious rights are more important than some people's right to be free from bullying. SCOTUS recently took a similar view regarding Fred Phelp's First Amendment rights (PDF). Which begs another question- what if a student regularly tells gay kids that "God" punishes the US for its tolerancy of homosexuality and that "God hates fags"?

Does this provision imply that it would constitute a "false allegation of bullying" if, say, a gay kid objected to these statements? Under this bill, does it become bullying to characterize religiously-motivated bullying as bullying? The bill needs to better address these questions.

In any event, I agree with Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) who noted that the bill provides a "blueprint for bullying." It seems to say that it's okay to make hostile, bullying statements as long as they're sincerely held and supported by powerful (or even marginal) religious or moral conviction. Practically speaking, this one little clause could negate all the effort that school districts would be expected to put into implementing anti-bullying policies under this new law.

[Cross-posted at Family Scholars Blog]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Venker on Sexual Harassment

It's always interesting when anti-feminists claim that 100% of feminists think men are always "guilty until proven innocent" regarding sexual harassment claims, while they themselves assert that most "sexual-harassment allegations are about women’s feelings" rather than men's inappropriate behavior.

It's like wow, projection much?

But, you know, I guess there are book and notoriety opportunities to be had in the Making Stuff Up About the Suckiness of Feminists department.

Anti-feminist Suzanne Venker continues, speaking specifically about Hermann Cain, and generally about women:

"That women now have the power to ruin men’s lives using a boatload of resentment but no evidence to speak of tells you all you need to know about feminism and its effect on our society. Once a free country[*], in which a person was innocent until proven guilty[*], America has devolved into a country hell-bent on getting even with men — and what better way to do this than using sex as a weapon?"

The possibility that men's entitlement to harassment might ruin women's lives isn't even on her radar. The fact that sexual harassment laws also apply to men because sometimes women engage in harassment too, not even considered. Under her narrative, it's all Feminists Always Just Automatically Believe Women, when, in reality, it's people like her who always believe men and think women and feminists are just too overly-sensitive about everything.

And, naturally, leave it to Suzanne Vencker to just psychicly know what the feminazi hivemind is really thinking.

[*Restrictions, of course, applied. But, sure, other than that, the Good Ol' Days were totally great for everyone!]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Conversations About Civility, Part II

[content/trigger warning: this post contains an example of a misogynistic/transphobic slur, fat shaming, and references to threats]

This post is a continuation of yesterday's, where I discussed some of the conversations and issues that arose in response to my post on civility at the Family Scholars Blog:

3. Bullying

The discussion about whether oppressed groups had a right to engage in hostility, brought up another point. No single universal definition of bullying exists, but is it possible for members of oppressed groups, in this case LGBT people, to be bullies? Or, is bullying only an act of the more powerful against the less powerless, as another commenter argued? What if the bullying (or "bullying") takes place among the powerless against the powerless? Or the oppressed against the oppressed?

This conversation point, to me, was the most compelling of the contrarian points raised. Bullying does seem to require an imbalance and abuse of power. Although, I would argue that the Internet has given the less powerful more power to transform themselves into bullies, especially when we're talking about cyber-bullying. Or, maybe definitions of what constitutes power become trickier when the Internet is involved?

And whether or not one meets a given definition of "bully," I do maintain that members of oppressed groups are still capable of inflicting harm upon those who are privileged (and oppressed). Indeed, that seems to be a point of hostility, right?

I also question the effectiveness of using bullying as a weapon to eradicate injustice. By meeting hostility with hostility, we legitimize its use and, in a sense, transform ourselves into our hostile opponents. When the homofeminstcommieliberal revolution is won, do we want it to be led by those who have won the war by equating their opponents with the frothy remnants of anal sex and mocking anti-gay women's weight? What happens when you become a critic of such leaders about one issue or another and they do the same to you? How about when they engage in hostility, even now, toward other oppressed groups that they don't perceive as being worthy of the same human dignity as gay people? Or, maybe we think gay rights are the only rights that matter?

To quote Melissa at Shakesville:

"Listen, if your revolution doesn't implicitly and explicitly include a rejection of misogyny and other intersectional marginalizations, then you're not staging a revolution: You're staging a change in management."

4. Dan Savage

In a way, I regret even bringing up Dan Savage's campaign against Rick Santorum. Over at FSB, some people defended Savage like zealous fanboys, which served mostly as a distraction from the main argument of my post, which was to advocate for greater civility all-around. When the convo turned into Dan Savage has done MORE for gay rights than YOU ever will, it seemed as though I was dealing with some people who found it hard to fathom that the left was being criticized from the left. Like, maybe it didn't fit into their binary paradigm of Good and Evil? As though, obviously, anyone criticizing other left-leaning people is obviously a secret agent of the right or something.

People began claiming that I was taking away the "powerful tool" of hostility and that I was denying people the right to be angry. When, no. I am all for anger and believe it's a powerful force for change, I just don't think righteous anger gives us a right to engage in aggression and hostility. Especially when people have ever-shifting defnitions of what is and isn't acceptable hostility and which -isms are acceptable tools in furtherance of some Greater Cause.

I'm not objecting to making strong, powerful, and dignified arguments that are fueled by anger, I'm not objecting to mocking people's opinions and agrguments. I'm objecting to ridiculing people's names, calling certain anti-gay women "ugly cows" and "trannies" and calling anyone who opposes LGBT rights "wingnut loonies." (Opposition to LGBT rights isn't usually a matter of mental illness, is it?). I object to people claiming to be totally against sexism (and other -isms) while, as our friend Jay did, later dismissing a person concerned about sexism as failing to be a "serious person with interesting ideas." (See also, a change in management not being a revolution).

5. Opponents of LGBT Equality

Opponents of SSM were not that active in the comment thread, which kind of surprised me. Going into the post, I kind of assumed it might piss them off too, and maybe generate some comments like "We're not ALL like THAT." But alas. Maybe they were eating popcorn on the sidelines of an inner-LGBT-ally convo.

But, I did appreciate that David Blankenhorn participated in the conversation and acknowledged that it was a failure of his side that they didn't condemn overt anti-LGBT bigotry on a regular basis. It is a huge failing on their part. Prominent anti-LGBT people and opponents of SSM don't often listen to us, but they do listen to the Important People (ie- the Normal Straight People who oppose SSM).

The only anti-LGBT person I have seen opponents of same-sex marriage (SSM) condemn on any regular basis has been Fred Phelps, who is so extreme and widely recognized as a bigot that criticizing him isn't risky or brave. Instead, many opponents of SSM form alliances with one another, even those with obsessive Oppose Everything Gay agendas, like Peter LaBarbera, that are far from some of the more nuanced positions commentators at FSB take.

Until opponents of SSM begin condemning the more virulent and hostile voices on their side, they too should recognize that they will probably never be able to generate trust among many QUILTBAG people and aliles. They won't convince us that most opponents of SSM are nice, civil, and supportive of LGBT people. And, speaking for myself, it's difficult to take some people at their word that they're not bigots and that they condemn hatred/bigotry when they are resoundingly silent about a lot of it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Conversations About Civility, Part I

[content/trigger warning: this post contains an example of a misogynistic/transphobic slur, fat shaming, and references to threats]

I had a hunch that my post over at Family Scholars Blog (FSB) advocating for civility on both sides of the Gay Culture Wars might result in some pushback from QUILTBAG allies. I speculate that some of the comments would have been different, and my motives questioned less, had I only published the post here in Fannie's Room, rather than at FSB as well.

While I am somewhat used to having anti-QUILTBAG types assume all kinds of things about me, my personal life, and my beliefs based solely on my "avowed" sexual orientation, it is a more rare experience to have allies make very personal, and very wrong, assumptions about me and my motivations. The experience and the conversation generated, however, did raise some important points regarding civility, dialogue, and internet communication:

1. Internet Privacy

One gay male commenter (and I note his gender and orientation because it becomes relevant) tried to pressure me into using my real name in blogging. Even after I requested that he respect my choice to use a pseudonym, which I did not make lightly and that was in response to threats that I, and other feminist bloggers, regularly receive, he (wrongly) assumed that I was closeted about my sexual orientation in my "real life," that my choice was a "disservice" to gay people, and that I was dishonest. He said that he has been threatened and assaulted in his life too but that didn't stop him from using his real name in one comment, suggesting that therefore I too should reveal personal information about myself on the Internet.

Feminist bloggers, especially those more prominent than I, regularly write about threats they receive in response to their blogging. In light of that, and for other reasons, I see many legitimate and valid reasons for people to use pseudonymity and anonymity in Internet interaction and blogging. Even if gay men (or anyone else) are threatened, harassed, and assaulted, I question the appropriateness of them equating their experiences with those of women and then auditing the choices and risk management strategies that we (or anyone else) make to stay safe online and in our daily lives.

2. "Concern Troll"

Another commenter said that I was "concern trolling" - as though I were merely posing as a pro-LGBT commentator(!) and arguing that LGBT people just need to be less "shrill" about asking for equality. Another found it "amusing" that my first post at the "homophobic" FSB "scold[ed] gay people."

Now, I know there are many gay men who are feminists and allies to feminists and women. But, I will articulate my frustration with the many gay men who are ignorant of basically the entire feminist blogosphere, even though the feminist blogosphere is incredibly supportive of equal rights for gay men. Like, I didn't just spring forth from the aether on November 1, 2011, the day of my first FSB post. I've been blogging almost every day since 2007, oftentimes about LGBT rights. Because I'm a lesbian who supports LGBT rights.

Secondly, given the number of times I have been told I need to Watch My Tone, the first dude's comment just made me LOL. Seriously, I'm basically an expert in having dudes tell me to chill out about rape culture, misogyny, and sexism. For instance, ironically, a different LGBT rights dude in that very same comment thread made a sexist comment about, what he referred to as, my post and comments' "listen to mother," "scolding," and "uncivil" tone and later that I deserved his comment because I "make feminism part of [my] blogging identity" (LOLWUT?).

I contend that what really bothered more than a few Team Tolerance members was that I was assertively arguing with men while being a woman. How dare I. Funny thing is, once you scratch the surface of a so-called liberal/progressive man's sexist slip-up, one often finds that bigger ones are revealed. The "little things" are often based upon pretty large *clears throat* problematic worldviews.

See, the "listen to mother" guy then tried to explain himself by saying that women and men just have different communication styles, and that men in social movements are direct and aggressive, while women are "passive-aggressive" and "scolding."

Although, he kind of slunk away after Internet's Gender Genie said that I actually communicate like a man and that he communicates like a woman. Whooops!

So anyway, believe me, I think it's incredibly important to make the distinction between statements that are (a) assertive arguments against inequality and "isms" being mislabeled "shrill" or "aggressive" and (b) an "ism"-based personal attack on an opponent (or ally), such as calling Ann Coulter a "hot tranny mess," accurately being called out as hostile.

My piece was intended to be the latter. We're just not being honest as LGBT people and advocates if we can't admit that people on "our side" are sometimes out of line and capable of harm. There have been, in fact, times I think my tone harsh or my words uncivil. Yet, there have also been times when opponents have inaccurately called my tone or words uncivil as a silencing tactic. It is crucial for those involved in contentious debates, on all sides, to be able to accurately discern when the former and the latter are happening.

Anyway, there's a lot to digest here, so I'll continue this post tomorrow.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Concerned Public Health Advocate of the Day

[content/trigger warning: homophobia, fat shaming]

You know, a person can always count on certain foaming-at-the-mouth frequent-commenter-of-anti-equality-blogs folks to confirm that, yep, homobigotry really does undergird many people's opposition to marriage equality and LGBT rights. For instance, the fella who goes by the moniker John Noe.

(Although... in the alternative, John Noe is an LGBT advocate in disguise, planted to make all those totes civil anti-equality advocates look mean....?)

Whatever the case, I had to chuckle at one of his latest statements. When his characterization of homosexuality as a "deathstyle" was called out as too extreme even by the anti-equality RuthBlog standards, he wrote:

"Betsy [the Ruthblog comment moderator]: If you do not want me to use deathstyle then so be it. Just remember that BIOLOGICAL SCIENTIFIC MEDICAL EVIDENCE proves that homosexuality is unhealty, leads to disease and a shorter life span. It is more dangerous to your health than obesity or tobacco.Go on YOUTUBE and watch the video 'Dangers of the Gay Lifestyle' and then go to the government run CDC website for the evidence."


Because writing several capitalized science-y adjectives before the word "evidence" and citing youtube and non-specific evidence at the CDC site always increases the legitimacy of an argument by at least 64%. That's for sure how public health advocacy works.

Cue the countdown before we get a "Gay Bowel Syndrome" reference.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In Which Gay Men Continue to Be the Default Gay Human

Via The Daily Mail, we learn of a study showing that "gay resumes" are 40% more likely to be rejected when compared to an identical "non-gay" resume.

What the heck's a "gay resume" anyway, you may ask? Well, in the study, gayness was demonstrated on the resume by listing the job candidate as the Treasurer of a gay college group.


Unfortunately, the article didn't note whether the "gay resumes" were of male or female job candidates (or both). Which, you know, is actually a relevant detail given the way that stereotypes of gay men with respect to fitness for a job might differ from stereotypes of lesbians. Employers also respond to identical male and female resumes differently, after all, meaning that sexual orientation is hardly the only relevant category with respect to a study about bias.

For instance, from the article:

"...[J]obs that traditionally were associated with an aggressive, assertive or decisive persona were far more likely to refuse the gay candidate an interview."


But here's the ambiguity problem when "gender neutral" descriptors are used to refer to only men in some instances and both men and women in other instances. The article never explicitly states that the study actually only pertains to gay men.

Instead, it provide some choice quotes from, I don't know, our Gay Spokemen?, suggesting that the study is only relevant to gay men:

"Reacting to the results, Jonathan Higbee at Instinct magazine said that it proves being, 'a proud gay man looking for a white-collar job,' is a tough business.

But Daniel Villarreal of Queerty said the practice was a, 'blessing in disguise,' with gay men avoiding homophobic work places."

Thusly does the article's author rely on the reader to fill in the missing logical steps:

Okay....let's see... the gay candidates were less likely to get interviewed for "aggressive" jobs... aggressive is a stereotypically masculine men are stereotypically feminine....and the article includes those two quotes about gay men by those two other men who might be gay, therefore this study about "gays" was about gay men and not lesbians...?

It's just sloppy work, really. (And yeah, The Daily Mail, I know). But still, failing to use precise terminology is how the mainstream media, anti-LGBT media, and honestly even the LGBT press sometimes, fails its readers, conflates gay with gay male, and invisibilizes non-heterosexual women.

The actual study, by the way, can be found here (emphasis added): "Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination Against Openly Gay Men in the United States." (Emphasis added).

Anyway, I guess this info is good for gay guys to know. I would contend that the results are not generalizable to non-heterosexual women.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dude: Equal Succession Rights No Feminist Victory

But I, of course, beg to differ.

The succession rules for the British monarchy have been revised, giving sons and daughters of future UK monarchs equal rights to the throne. Previously, the crown would pass to a daughter only if no sons were living.

Andrew Roberts, writing at The Daily Beast, doesn't seem too thrilled with this development. In a classic appeal to tradition, he opines:

"...[W]e are insufferably arrogant in thinking that our mores trump [those of our ancestors] when it comes to an institution as ancient as the monarchy."


It's always so easy for people not on the receiving end of inequality to assert that we should preserve ancient unequal traditions, isn't it?

I think the worst part of his piece is that he kind of pays lip service to the notion that Sexism Is Bad, but still ultimately concludes that because the monarchy's rules of succession are really, really old, we shouldn't muck them up now in our Arrogant-PC-Gone-Too-Far times.

He also argues that because the monarchy discriminates against most of us with respect to succession, it's not really a feminist success story for it to stop discriminating against its daughters:

"You cannot become monarch unless you are a direct descendant of King George II (regnant 1727–60), which is extremely discriminatory to the 99.999 percent of us who aren’t. If you are already discriminating against all but about 30 people out of the nearly 7 billion on the planet, is it really such a glorious blow for womanhood to abolish the right of male primogeniture in order to benefit one of Prince William’s as-yet-unborn daughters?"

Well, yeah. I'm not a fan of monarchies, since they're the very essence of un-meritocratic privilege, but I suppose I have a similar reaction to this news as I do about news relating to women's ordination in male-centric/male-supremacist religions:

As long as they're around, they should at least be fair and they should at least try to redeem themselves by being better than they have been. By not allowing women the same rights to succession (or ordination) as men, it sends a loud and clear message that sex is a relevant category with respect to leadership (or the priesthood), and that women are only good enough for a job if no men are around to fill it.

Also, I hear some "men's rights" types make a similar argument regarding CEOs. It's usually something along the lines of, "Even though most CEOs are men, most men aren't CEOs." The purpose of this argument seems to be to both "erase" the existence of male privilege at the top tiers of society and to let everyone know that Stuff Is Hard For Men Too. It just seems to be another way of saying sex discrimination at the elite levels of society doesn't really matter because it only, like, affects maybe 20 or 25 women tops.

Yet, that it supposedly affects so few women is an arguable matter. Indeed, while it's true that the vast majority of people living will not become kings and queens (or CEOs), I wonder how succession rules that favor boys and men play into the lives of the 99%.

Whenever a distinction between men and women is created and used as the basis for discriminatory treatment, doesn't it imply that vast sex differences exist and are relevant to ability, competence, and temperament? With monarchs and CEOs being more visible and more influential than the commoners, aren't these messages about sex and hierarchy powerful and pervasive?

If it is put forth that kings and queens are legitimized by "God," might it say something about male versus female capacity for leadership if "God" puts more men on the throne than women?

Anyway, relatedly, I've been reading George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, so it was interesting to have that in the background of my mind while reading Roberts' dismissive piece explaining to all of us feminists that this rule change is "no great blow for womanhood." Sure, Martin's series is fictional, but I think one of its strengths is in illustrating how male-supremacist succession rules really overvalue sons/men/boys at the expense of daughters/women/girls. In my opinion, Martin's illustration invites readers to view this over-valuing of men as a negative and an injustice to women.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guest Posting at Family Scholars Blog

Hey everyone, as an FYI, I have recently accepted the invitation of Elizabeth Marquardt at the Family Scholars Blog (FSB) to be a guest blogger over at FSB (!).

I will join Barry Deutsch, of Alas, A Blog, in participating as a feminist, pro-LGBT blogger at the site.

In my first post there, which is being published today, I outline a few of the reasons I accepted Elizabeth's invitation. Although posting there may from time to time cause me to be misidentified as something along the lines of a "rightwing anti-gay" (as Barry recently was, LOL), I am interested in the civil exchange of ideas with people who have quite different views than my own, some of whom are influential players in many of the debates surrounding same-sex marriage, gender, and family structure in the US.

Anyway, here's my first post:

"You Say It's Bullying, I Say It's PC Gone Too Far (And Vice Versa)"

Hello, Family Scholars Blog (FSB) readers! I'd like to begin by thanking Elizabeth for inviting me to guest post. Although I don't comment too often here, I am a regular reader of FSB and appreciate many of the conversations the articles inspire.

As a blog for the Institute for American Values (IAV), which tends to lean against supporting marriage equality for same-sex couples, it is a gracious and trusting act to give me, a feminist, lesbian, pro-equality blogger, a voice here. (I guess this is a good place to mention, in case it's not clear, that the IAV doesn't necessarily endorse what I write here, and nor do I necessarily endorse the opinions of IAV or any other FSB blogger).

I also appreciate the opportunity to interact with folks like David Blankenhorn, Maggie Gallagher (who shows up occasionally), and many of you all about contentious issues in the comment threads. I don't always agree with people here, but as far as the Internet goes, I've found FSB to be a relatively civil forum where many people try to rise above treating "the other side" like ridiculous caricatures. In allowing comments, I think most of the moderators try to be fair and strike that difficult-to-find balance between keeping people safe from hostility while allowing all kinds of opposing viewpoints.

With that being said, I'd like to jump right in and open up a conversation about civility, particularly in "mixed company." (Oh, this is also a good place for me to mention that I do not think I'm perfect, or have been perfect, in the civility department on the Internet. I think an important part of an honest conversation about civility is owning our own capacity for hostility and aggression. In conversations, I have had opportunities to stop cycles of aggression that I did not take, choosing instead to take the easy road of reacting to aggression with further aggression.)

I think, generally, when one sees oneself as a victim or part of an oppressed class, it can be difficult to simultaneously see oneself as an agent of aggression or incivility. When thinking of the Gay Culture Wars in particular, and by that I mean the opposing views that homosexuality is immoral/unhealthy/deviant versus the notion that it is not, I have seen people on both sides adopt an "I'm a victim of [circle one: anti-LGBT bigots or secular homosexualists] therefore I'm incapable of hurting anyone" mentality.

I don't intend to imply that Both Sides Are Just As Bad, for I certainly have my own view about which side is more powerful and aggressive. Yet, I do think many LGBT advocates let ourselves and each other off the hook too easily for engaging in incivility against anti-equality advocates under the reasoning that "they started it, they're mean to us, they deserve it." I advocate for a greater awareness for how such a view not only disrespects the human dignity of others, but is detrimental to our advocacy.

At one popular gay blog, for instance, a writer ridiculed Michelle Bachmann's outfit and made a "joke" about her husband (spoiler alert!) not being gay. When several commenters, jumped in to say that such attacks are out of line, some people reasoned that she deserved it because of her anti-gay opinions and that it was just "harmless" fun.

As I looked at the blogger's short post, I kept thinking, how might a conservative woman who opposes LGBT rights read his "joke"? Would she be more or less likely to reconsider her views on homosexuality?

I also find it problematic that the prominent Dan Savage, a gay man who founded a popular anti-bullying campaign, makes it clear through other campaigns he has founded that it is okay, actually, to bully some people.

Sure, chalk these up as "harmless" jokes, but are they really "harmless" to the people on the receiving end of them? Of course not, and that's the point. And sure, the people harmed by this bullying are often bullies to LGBT people. But, if a person already believes that LGBT people are evil villains, don't these irrelevant personal attacks only further cement that view?

These personal attacks are mostly venting that appeals only to those who already agree with us about LGBT rights and further polarizes the opposition.

Looking at those who oppose LGBT equality, attorney Chuck Cooper argued during the Prop 8 trial that it would be a "slur" on the 7 million Californians who voted on the ban on marriage licenses for same-sex couples to suggest that they had anti-gay, bigoted reasons for doing so.

Sure, I would concede that some people might have civil reasons for opposing equality, and yet how might the words and actions of certain groups, commentators, and activists further cement the view that, yes, actually lots of people really do have anti-gay, bigoted reasons for opposing marriage equality?

I'm reminded of Stacy, a Catholic blogger who wrote an infamous post about the horrors of having to live in a society where same-sex couples show non-sexual affection with one another in public spaces. I'm reminded of articles that refer to representation of gay and lesbian characters in the media as an infection that ought to be staunched and avoided. I'm reminded of some of the commenters who congregate at the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) blog and call equalty advocates names like marriage corruption vandals" while referencing the so-called "homosexual manifesto" for ruining society.

I question whether those who agree with such viewpoints have an accurate understanding of how, to many LGBT people, such statements are not at all harmless and are, to us, actually quite hostile. With such an understanding, they might better understand LGBT people's accusations of anti-gay bullying. It's an understanding that is sorely lacking, as some opponents of LGBT equality consider it to be "mean," "bullying," or "a silencing tactic" when equality advocates call them bigots or bullies.

Regardless of whether one sees that hostility oneself, or views it as PC Gone Too Far whining, perhaps it can be useful for such people to wonder how posting such articles might further cement the "other side's" notion that those who oppose marriage equality or LGBT representation in the media actually are anti-gay bigots?

What do you all think?

Related: Conversation About Civility