Friday, February 14, 2014

Facebook Adds Additional Gender Options

[Content note: trans bigotry]

Via USA Today, Facebook is "adding a customizable option with about 50 different terms people can use to identify their gender as well as three preferred pronoun choices: him, her or them."


Not everyone is happy that people are now able to more accurately describe themselves if they wish on Facebook. The article includes the following soundbite:
"Of course Facebook is entitled to manage its wildly popular site as it sees fit, but here is the bottom line: It's impossible to deny the biological reality that humanity is divided into two halves — male and female," said Jeff Johnston, an issues analyst for Focus on the Family, an influential national religious organization based in Denver, in an interview with the AP.
Now, Focus on the Family doesn't include staff information or qualifications on its website, so it's unclear with what expertise, if any, Jeff Johnston is speaking when making his pronouncements about gender. The article only notes that Focus on the Family is an "influential national religious organization," so maybe that's what makes Johnston a gender genius.

I guess the important thing is that the media always knows right where to go for a trusty Legitimate Other Side to any remotely positive advance for transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bob Jones University Fires Sex Abuse Investigators

Via The New York Times, conservative Christian school Bob Jones University has fired the Christian consulting group it had previously hired to conduct an investigation into the university's response to sexual assaults and abuse.

From the article:
"Catherine Harris, who attended the university in the 1980s, is one of several people who said it was very hard for her to talk to Grace investigators about being abused — and she now feels betrayed that Grace has been sidelined. 
'Nearly everyone at Bob Jones grew up in a fundamentalist environment, so if you were abused, your abuser probably came from inside that bubble, too, which is what happened to me,' she said. 'The person who supposedly counseled me told me if I reported a person like that to the police, I was damaging the cause of Christ, and I would be responsible for the abuser going to hell. He said all of my problems were as a result of my actions in the abuse, which mostly took place before I was 12, and I should just forgive the abuser.'”
About a year ago, I started a re-read of the book Amish Grace, which explores the Amish value of forgiveness.  About 3/4 of the way through the book, I wanted to fling it against the wall.

Although it's easy to utter nice-sounding platitudes about how we should all forgive those who hurt us because that supposedly sets us free and so forth, I noticed in the book that the majority of those being forgiven, or at least talked about as being forgiven, were men and that the burden seemed to be disproportionately on women, often, to not make "too big a deal" about their pain "for the sake of community" and "keeping the peace" and "being a good Christian."

In the Bob Jones article, a former student and faculty member says, “As always, [school officials] are worried about protecting the church and the university, not the victims."

Boy Scouts. The US military. The Catholic Church.

Protecting institutions rather than victims seems to be an essential feature of some types of institutions - often, it seems, the major male-centered, gender essentialist, and historically homophobic ones. Those correlations are notable and worth further exploration.

Missing Gender Narratives in Penn State

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Men Yuk It Up Over Sexism (Against Men) Video

I've seen this video, which I first saw at Huffington Post, making the blog/social media rounds.

It's a gender swap of experiences that many women have with sexual harassment, threats, and assault - swapping in a man as being a person who lives in a society that entitles women to sexual aggression toward men. So, trigger warning for all of that, if you watch the video.

I got about halfway through the video and kind of couldn't stomach the rest.  I found it that disturbing. "Woman" is so often coded as "victim" in US society that showing a man in that role I think can highlight just how awful the circumstances are that many have become accustomed to.  And, while men can be and often are victims of sexual assault and aggression, the video captures nicely the sexist elements in our society that often are uniquely or predominately experienced by women.

This isn't a big newsflash, but we live in a society where gender very much matters and in which gender narratives are still very much in play. Those narratives shape, among other things, what people think they're entitled to based on their gender, how people see themselves in relation to the "opposite" gender, and the extent to which people are blamed for things other people do to them.

So-called men's rights activists (MRAs) often complain that society doesn't care about male victims (which is a somewhat legitimate complaint, due to various gender narratives) and that feminists are 99% to blame (which is mostly bullshit). Rarely, do MRAs or "feminist critics" take on those who promote traditional gender narratives that frame men as inherently strong, remarkably invincible, and un-victimlike. Almost never do MRAs take on the Average Joe who only ever thinks about gender when he want to continue making things worse for men or telling everyone how stupid feminists are.

Again, this situation is old news to most readers here.

I'm just compiling evidence that demonstrates that yep, lots of people who aren't feminists actually contribute to, and buy into, the situations that MRAs endlessly whinge about but blame feminists for.

So look. Some male non-feminist comments* to the video showing a male victim of sexual assault:
"Women running naked and chasing after me. I don't have to work and can stay home, ride my bike and take care of the kids. Sounds great to me!" -Taxmodius Vivax (This popular comment received 72 "favorites").
"This is a dream world for most guys. We are dying to be sexually objectified lol!" -Kurt (This comment got 15 "favorites")
Such a privilege, isn't it, to find sexual assault funny?

As a newsflash to MRAs and their like-minded brethren: most feminists don't sit around all day cackling with glee about the idea of men being raped. It's usually non-feminist men who do that.  So take it up with them, players.

(*Many of the comments that men made in response to the video trivialized sexism against women, referred to how much worse things are for women in other countries, and/or called the video "sexist" against men.  Again, no surprise there - just an observation that some folks were doing more than yukking it up.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thoughts on Mad Men and Sommers

Are any of you watching Mad Men?

I recently started watching it on Netflix and wow, like 99% of the men on it so far are total assholes to women.

Yet, I can't stop watching it in a similar way that I can't stop reading certain conservative dude blogs I read. There's something I find so compelling, not in a good way, of men who are certain about their intellectual supremacy in comparison to women - whether they make that belief explicit or whether the belief crops up mostly in how they engage women's ideas and arguments. Compelling in that I think it's in my defensive self-interest as a woman to know what some men really think about women, and of themselves in relation to women.

Anyway, you know those parts of Mad Men when one of the men will say something totally slimy and sexual in the office, usually about a woman while the woman is within earshot, and then how they all smarmily laugh, basking in their supremacist brotherhood of thank-god-we're-not-women-ness?

Internet should have a montage of the clips in which all of the men are engaging in their douchey chortling, and a link to it should be left in the comments of every cesspool blog that's dominated by sexist dudes.

Just throwing that out there.

In any event, I'm on Season 2 and it's also compelling to see how the writers are showing women's various responses to working in such an incredibly sexist workplace.

Earlier this month, conservative "feminist" Christina Hoff Sommers assured everyone that the gender wage gap is a myth, because women - for reasons she fails to adequately specify - are Just Interested In Low-Paying Jobs Compared To the Jobs Men Are Interested In, Because of Biology Reasons.

Now, I don't take Mad Men to be, like a super rigorous historical account of life in the US in the 1960s. But, it's interesting to be watching that show whilst reading accounts like Sommers', that mostly seek to affirm a status quo, rather than to question it, and that largely treats disparities that still exist as, well, there used to maybe be unfairness toward women but then some stuff happened and now, well, now everyone has equal opportunity so if women make less money these days it's entirely because of their individual choices and their biological essence.