Friday, September 28, 2012

An Apology

[Content note: Ableism] 

Hi everyone, a reader wrote to me this morning about my use of the word "derp" in this post.

I had used the word thinking that it was a benign synonym for "duh." It turns out, the word is often used on Internet alongside pictures of developmentally disabled people or people photoshopped so as to appear developmentally disabled.

I was not aware of that association because I had never seen the word used that way before.

I also understand, however, that despite my good faith intentions, my use of the word has hurt people and might have suggested that I agree with mocking or ridiculing those who are developmentally disabled.

For that, I'm truly sorry.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Made-up Male Candidates "More Qualified" Than Made-up Female Candidates

Via Sociological Images, researchers asked a sample of 127 science faculty in their fields to rate two candidates for a lab manager job position. The candidates' application materials were exactly the same, except half the materials were associated with the name "Jennifer" and the other half were associated with the name "John."

Guess which "candidate" was seen as more qualified and was offered a higher salary?



I think it's also important to point out here that the professors did not express hostility toward or dislike of the female "candidate," but rather they seemed motivated by implicit or unconscious biases against female scientists. This finding cuts to the core of how people can be sexist (or racist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted) even if they have good intentions, think of themselves as nice people, and expressly like people of the group they are sexist against.

This type of sexism is, perhaps, the most difficult to combat and one of the more difficult of the male privileges for many to see.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Civility and Understanding

Over at Family Scholars Blog, I have been engaged in offline conversations about civility and a revised comment policy for the site. One of the main reasons I chose to be a guest blogger there was because I believe that David and Elizabeth are sincerely interested in cultivating a space where civil dialogue could occur among those who disagree, sometimes even strongly, about issues related to family, law, and society.

One of the biggest barriers to civil dialogue is, I believe, the failure to understand those with whom we disagree.  I further believe that this lack of understanding often pertains to what kind of people our opponents are, the intentions of our opponents, and the substantive points our opponents are making.

The first type of ignorance is oftentimes apparent in the language that is used to describe our opponents.  For, the language that is used to describe the other side often determines whether or not dialogue with those on the other side can even productively take place.  I read many blogs written by those with whom I disagree, including, most often, those who oppose feminism and equality for LGBT people. One of the biggest give-aways that I'm reading someone who has no clue about the people whose rights they so strongly oppose is the way they characterize us- "us," in this case, being feminists and LGBT advocates.

Rather than presenting the other side as nuanced human beings who have good and sincere reasons for supporting our policy positions, I often see feminists monolithically portrayed as man-hating, "hairy-legged feministas," and "abortion lustists." (Yes, seriously).  I see gay people widely portrayed as "homofascist bullies," "predators," and evil, slatternly members of "the lifestyle left." 

And yes, I also read many blogs by those with whom I agree about feminism and LGBT rights.  There, I sometimes see opponents of feminism and LGBT rights monolithically portrayed as "crazies," "haters," "fundies," and "Christianists."

These caricatured descriptions, usually based almost entirely on a person's position on one or two issues, are little like most of the real-life human beings I know and have come to know.  Unfortunately, I learned early on in my blogging career that, oftentimes, my position as a feminist and a lesbian would mean that many people would not see me as a human being, but as a cartoon villain hell-bent on plotting mustache-twirling schemes to enslave men, destroy the family, and Be Super Mean To Christians.

So, when I see people using stereotypical labels and speaking very generally about their opponents, it signals to me that the person uttering such labels is likely not only uninformed, but that they (a) might not have much experience actually interacting with those on the other side, (b) they don't have much interest in actually learning more about the other side, and/or (c) they want to take the easy, and uncivil, route of acting as though everyone on the other side is a villain with only evil motives for believing what they believe or being who they are.

In relation to this site's civility policy, I would contend that part of engaging in civil dialogue with those with whom we disagree involves first making a concerted effort to better understand the other side.  This understanding comes from reading their arguments, asking questions to clarify, and also being mindful of the narratives that characterize those on the other side and that those on the other side consequently often have to deal with.

For instance, when one understands that gay men have a long history of being unfairly portrayed as predators, one might better understand why a post calling gay men predators is a signal to gay men and allies that the person calling gay men predators might not have much experience interacting with gay men, that the person might not have much interest in learning about gay men's histories, and/or that the person wants to take the easy and uncivil route of acting as though one's policy opponents are villains with evil motives for their beliefs and actions.

Reacting to the recent acts of violence in Libya, religious scholar and civility advocate Karen Armstrong reminded us of the Socratic tradition of strongly questioning every one of our certainties and received opinions. She writes:

"Try to put yourself in the position of the 'other side' ~ as the compassionate ethos demands ~ and ask yourself  'How much do I really know about their history of pain, achievement, oppression, disappointment, fear, idealism, and aspiration ~ all of which, on both sides, have contributed to this violence?'"
In our offline conversations (which I'm discussing with Elizabeth's permission), my suggestion for a new comment policy included a plea for those engaging here to be mindful of the fact that our words can hurt others even if that is not our intent.  This mindfulness is particularly important for those coming to contentious conversations with varied life experiences and histories of societal abuse and oppression.  I don't think it's practical for such a provision to be actively policed by blog moderators, but I do see this mindfulness as a good starting point if a goal of conversation here is to promote civility and understanding.

As a lesbian, for instance, I have an experience of pain, a lifetime of hurt, caused by people in positions of great power regularly telling me and others in society that gay people are fundamentally wrong, immoral, unhealthy, predatory, and/or sick.   For those who do not have his lived experience to treat the morality of homosexuality as a legitimate conversation topic, or to randomly drop inflammatory links from rabidly anti-gay sites just for the sake of presenting some other "equally valid" viewpoint, can, in some gay people, trigger a lot of.... anger, hostility, hurt, fear, and/or resentment precisely because we are already familiar with this hurtful other side and regularly have to defend ourselves against it. It is a hurtful, ignorant, and privileged assumption for non-gay people to think that gay people need to become educated about these "other sides" as "food for thought."

To be clear, my point isn't that I think hurtful topics should never be discussed.  If a person is up for talking about something even though it's difficult to do so, I say go for it. 

Rather, my point is that I think a tenet of civil conversation among mixed company would be, as Armstrong suggests, to ask ourselves first how well we truly understand the other side- not only their arguments but their history, oppressions, and experiences.  And, with that understanding, how does our contribution to the discourse further or inhibit both civility and understanding?
[Cross-posted: Family Scholars Blog]

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tales From Matriarchy

I continue to be amused by those who simultaneously disbelieve in the notion of patriarchy while simultaneously promoting its inverse: an all-powerful matriarchy in which the "typical man" is forced*  to work 12-hour days, to fight in wars, to die to protect women, and to turn over "90%" of his earnings to the lady people?

*"Forced" by who? Forced by what? To the typical believer in the matriarchy, who knows? Who cares? What's clear is that it's Very Important for many Angry-Wronged Dudes who point out the various ways in which Bad Stuff Happens To Men to blame feminism first and ask questions later never.


I'm also convinced that 95% of MRAs are unaware that men haven't been drafted in the US since 1973- probably decades before many of today's MRAs were even born.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

Derp:No doy**:
"The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment, or morale."

-From "One Year Out: An Assessment of DADT Repeal's Impact on Military Readiness" (PDF), UCLA Palm Center
As a relevant note, the research team used "vigorous efforts" to collect data from all major military and non-military opponents of DADT repeal.

If you read the full report, feel free to discus it here.

[**See note on word deletion]

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interview With Judy Dushku at Religion Dispatches

Over at Religion Dispatches Joanna Brooks interviews Judy Dushku, a "Mormon feminist, global women’s rights activist, and professor at Suffolk University" who has known, and criticized, Mitt Romney.

It should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog regularly that I won't be voting for Romney in November. However, I highlight this interview because it's infuriating to me that a person with such problematic views about women can potentially hold so much power. For, a recurring theme that I noticed was the male-supremacist "men should lead, and women should be seen but not heard" interpretation of Mormonism. Of Romney, Dushku, a divorced woman with children, says:
"...[H]e was very invested in the grooming of young men, and the families most valued in the ward were cohesive and had successful strong husbands. I do know Mitt took his home teaching [an LDS program that assigns male members to visit families in the congregation monthly] very seriously and there were families who loved him because he would really go out of his way for them. But I was different, somehow. I was not 'weak' in terms of 'to be worried about in a pastoral way,' but different in that I had needs, but had some idea of ways I might be served. I felt that he wanted to tell me what I needed without my input. He did not want to hear what I said."
With respect to Mormon feminists who male bishops had excommunicated because of their political views, Dushku says that Romney stood by his men:
"Mitt said, 'With any bishop who excommunicates a woman, I will not question his reasoning. I will support the bishop'"
It's just more of the same ol', same ol' story of men creating their own special male-only affirmative action "leadership" programs where they don't have to compete with women as equals and then, by uncritically backing up other men so as not to undermine male privilege, they preserve male power and supremacy at the expense of girls and women.

Dushku also speaks of the press seeking "dirt" on Romney and being somewhat disappointed when Dushku didn't have any on him. By "dirt," the press apparently was after evidence of him being unfaithful to his wife.

After all, sexism and male supremacist views of powerful, especially religious, men is simply too unremarkable to be considered "dirt."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering, Still

Today I'm going to re-post from last year, about remembering 9/11 and dealing with the recent death of a good friend of mine:

This photo tends to surface when people feel like writing narratives about 9/11.

In it, a group of carefree-appearing people bask in the sun on the Brooklyn waterfront while smoke from the World Trade Center billows in the Manhattan background. Apparently, this scene was very American, to be tacky and look carefree in the midst of a horrible tragedy.

One of the men in the photo has since disputed that appearance, saying that the photographed people were actually in a state of "shock and disbelief." Of course, his account seems entirely plausible, and who the hell is a photo to say what those people were actually feeling inside?

Almost a month ago, I lost a dear friend in a much-publicized, albeit much-smaller-scale, tragedy. My life, since then, has been one of Moving On With Life On The Outside while simultaneously existing in an inner state of sorrow and shock.

The sadness becomes less and less each day. And with the distance from that pain, come feelings of guilt. Which is why the photograph resonates with me, today. Of it, Jonathon Jones writes:
"The people in the foreground are us. We are the ones whose lives went on, touched yet untouched, separated from the heart of the tragedy by the blue water of time, which has got ever wider and more impossible to cross. A 10-year-old event belongs to history, not the present. To feel the full sorrow of it now you need to watch a documentary – and then you will switch to something lighter, either because it is painfully clear that too much blood has been spent around the world in the name of this disaster, or simply because changing channels is what humans do. The people in this photograph cannot help being alive, and showing it."
I find myself unable to fully let go of my sorrow, because letting go feels like seeing my friend, across the "blue water," growing smaller and smaller while I turn away and look onward.

It doesn't seem fair. But what else can we do?

Letting go is inevitable. Life goes on. Perhaps our hearts are big enough for us to become okay with that.

Friday, September 7, 2012

On the Myth of Universal Feminist Misandry

Are male anti-feminists, men's rights activists, "gender egalitarians" and other various critics of feminism regularly inundated, by feminists (or anyone for that matter) with threats of rape, assault, and violence because of their gender issues advocacy?

Because well, this shit?*, is deplorable. (*Content at link contains snippets of threats, harassment, and bullying experienced by feminist bloggers. Is it too hyperbolic to call such threats terrorism? Given that so many of these threats seem specifically calculated to create fear and submission for the political purpose of getting feminists to STFU, I'm going to go ahead and answer my own question: I think not.)

And, well, I hear all the time from non-feminists and "gender egalitarians" how things are pretty much the same these days for men and women, how things actually are worse for men, and how there's totally a man/boy crisis these days.

So, since feminists (but not non-feminists? I don't know, the rules are very confusing) must devote an equal amount of time talking about "men's issues" as we do talking about "women's issues" and condemning misandry the exact same amount of time that we condemn misogyny, lest we be hypocritical, I'm wondering at what point do non-feminists and critics of feminism have an obligation to denounce this terrorism?

Do men and those who claim to be their #1 advocates get a free pass at condemning threats against feminists? Or, are they too busy still talking about Valerie Solanas and pretending that she represents Totally Mainstream Feminist Thought In 2012? Are they, I don't know, busy highlighting some old quotes from feminist fiction novels so they can take those out of context, pretend a real feminist said it,  and present that as "evidence" of how all feminists hate men?

I've had a serious case of the blogging blahs this week.

I'm so sick of the ways feminists are so casually maligned with horrendous amounts of aggression and misogyny, and yet so universally caricatured as man-haters who want to eliminate men.  The truth is, that's a ginormous projection. Many people hate feminists and they want to eliminate us. And so, I'm sick most of all about the fact that so few people who aren't feminists actually give a shit about that.

And you want me to spend my precious time condeming Valerie Solanas for something she said and did 45 years ago, buckaroo? Well get in line, bubs. There's a whole gang o' privileged, entitled mansplainers who think they know how how to do a better job of setting feminist priorities than people who actually think critically about feminism and gender. Indeed, there are gaggles upon gaggles of folks who think they have lots to teach the lady feminists, despite the fact that Valerie Solanas and "the radfem hub" are the only feminists they regularly read.

I mean, does it get old? Does it get stale for male non/anti-feminists to keep re-reading and re-reading these marginal radical feminists? Does the non/anti-feminist mind ever crave reading, you know, more mainstream folks? Would it upset the "man is the real victim of feminist misandry/both sides are just as bad" narratives too much to be a little more intellectual fair and curious?

I mean, sure, many such folks have never read any actual, complete works by Friedan, Woolf, hooks, MacKinnon, Dworkin, Davis, de Beauvoir, Lorde, Grimke, Truth, Faludi, Greer, Paglia, Ahmed, Butler and (I could continue) and, sure, they don't regularly read any feminist blogs, but still. Their girlfriend/mom/sister/woman-they-know once read The Feminist [sic] Mystique and said it was crap. And, besides, they've laughed at that Rush Limbaugh quote about how ugly feminists are and have read some quotes on "men's rights" sites about things some other feminists said in the '70s.

So of course the feminist movement, we monolithic hivemind gals, should definitely take advice from such sooper-enlightened critics of feminism! And the rest of the world should definitely take everything they say about feminists at 100% face value!

Too often, literally (and I do mean literally) the only times some non-feminists even utter their newly-learned word "misandry" is when they're accusing feminists of it.  These people don't actually give a damn about intelligently, critically, or sincerely engaging the topic of misandry, they just know they need to knock a bitch down a notch or two on Internet and that accusing her of "misandry" is an easy way to do it without having to actually engage her arguments or ideas.

I mention Solanas, not just because she's come up here recently in comments (seriously! if we don't include a disclaimer specifically condeming her prior to every post than a feminist obviously condones everything she said or did!), but also because the myth of universal feminist misandry is, I believe, a large part of why men (especially) feel entitled to unleash aggression upon feminist women (especially). After all, if feminists really truly hate men, want to eliminate them, and/or want to totally dominate them, men are going to see their aggression and threats and harassment as justifiable self-defense.

So, let me make this clear.

I have no tolerance for those who perpetuate the myth of universal feminist misandry.

Not only does the utterance of this myth signal to me that I'm dealing with an ignorant person, I believe that those who believe in and spread this myth are responsible for at least some of the violence and bullying aimed at feminist women and for feminism's marginal and discredited stance in the mainstream. When a person tells me that "all," "most," or hell even "many" feminists hate men, what that person is telling me is that ze doesn't give a damn about women. And if someone doesn't give a damn about women, why on gawd's green earth should we ever listen to what they have to say about how we can do feminism better?

And yep. I'm intolerant of such people. Really truly. Life doesn't have to be an equal opportunity program for assholes. The quicker we learn that little tidbit, the faster that "you're so intolerant for not tolerating my intolerance/aggression/bullying" accusation can go shit in a hat already.

Also, is there a thing like Hollaback, except for Internet?

If not, there should be.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Question of the Day

Via the comments in my post about men making excuses for not advocating on behalf of men, Archy wants to know:
"Where are the feminists speaking up and condemning the Valerie Solanas's, the extreme misandry at the radfemhub website (which seems to have some support from the SLPC if various articles tell the truth), SCUM manifesto lovers, and the extremist feminists?"
My response can be read here.

But, the gist of it is that.... well, really?

No, really?

We're still talking about Valerie Solanas? People who are feminists still have to explicitly condemn, disassociate ourselves from, and continually apologize for her book that she wrote 50 years ago?  And, if we don't consistently and explicitly do so, that is some people's excuse for not being a feminist?

I see.

It seems as though some gender egalitarians think that if feminism isn't spending the same exact equal amount of time condemning Solanas' misandry as we are spending it condemning current acts of misogyny and actual threats to women's bodily autonomy, then we're not being good, real, or legitimate feminists- since, ya know, feminism is about "equality" and all.

So, here's a challenge of my own.

When someone can point to critical masses of actual politicians and religious leaders in the real world who take the SCUM Manifesto as seriously as they do their gender essentialist, sexist, homophobic, male supremacist "Judeo-Christian" religious teachings, I'll start expecting feminists to put more time and effort into explicitly condemning Valerie Solanas.