Monday, April 29, 2013

Family Scholars Blog on "Hiatus"

Per a surprising post by Elizabeth Marquardt, the Family Scholars Blog, which is the blog of the Institute for American Values, has gone on hiatus effectively immediately.

I say "surprising," because the news is surprising and unexpected to me, as someone who has been volunteer guest blogging at the forum for more than a year and who has put in many hours in behind-the-scenes work to help develop a more comprehensive comment and moderation policy for the site.

To my knowledge, guest bloggers, including myself, were given no forewarning* or additional insight for the decision to put the blog on hiatus other than what Elizabeth issued in her public blog post, which includes the following explanation:
"We simply don’t have the staff right now to maintain the blog and the comments section at a high level of excellence. And, more importantly, we want to broaden our outreach on the full range of civil society topics that the Institute engages in the U.S. and the world."
I'm still kind of processing my thoughts about this announcement, so I may have more to say later.

For now, I know that the forum had a host of "regulars" who commented, guest blogged, and interacted with one another on a near-daily basis. I'm not sure if any of them will find their way here to post their thoughts, but since FSB is no longer posting comments, people are welcome to post their thoughts here.

[*Update: Elizabeth actually sent an email to guest bloggers informing us of this decision about an hour and a half before she posted publicly about it. This email contains no additional insight as to the decision than what has been made public.]

Friday, April 26, 2013

Back From Vacation

Welp, in case you hadn't noticed, I took a little blogcation this past week and, wow, it turns out I'm a much happier person when I'm not interacting with some people on the Internet.

I know this isn't a Startling Revelation, but it seems so clear to me that perhaps the majority of blog arguments (bloguments?) aren't really about achieving understanding at all, but rather, they're about point-scoring, pointing out "hypocrisies," winning, defaming, embarassing, and/or attacking and, wow, maybe I should take more time to step. away. from. the. computer. so I can better re-assess which commenters are and are not worth taking time to engage.

Anyway, in Google Reader news, I've made the switch to The Old Reader and have managed to rack up about 963 unread blogposts during my vacation, so that's going to be swell to catch up on everything I've missed. I take it Internet didn't explode or anything during my absence.

In L Word news, since it's Friday, what does the Hivemind think about Shane?

I think a superficial comparison could be made between Shane and Queer as Folk's Brian Kinney, in that both characters have experienced deep wounds from their biological families and are sexually promiscuous and unwilling to remain monogamous.

A key difference between the two characters is that Brian is consistently up front, honest, and unapologetic about his sexual and relationship choices, while Shane is not.  While she's generally loyal to her friends, she cheats on her partners and spends a lot of time being guilty and mopey.

As a result, I ended up liking Brian much more than I liked Shane, even as I understand why some people take issue with the portrayal of Brian and how it lends to the stereotype of gay men being promiscuous.  I also think that some gender narratives and roles might be in play in the two depictions, as, can a woman, a lesbian at that, really "get away with" being openly and unapologetically promiscuous and non-monogamous?

In any event, I ultimately wanted Shane to grow stronger and to become more self-aware, rather than continually finding herself in monogamous relationships with partners who expected more from her than she was able or willing to give.

Welp, I guess that concludes today's post, about a TV show that ended in 2009.  You only get the most breaking news here in Fannie's Room, folks.  Maybe by 2018, I'll hop off my hoverboard and start posting about this hot new show called Game of Thrones!

Friday, April 19, 2013

In Which I Fail to Be Impressed

Check out number 27, on this list of times the Westboro Baptist Church "lost badly."

It's a screen shot of a disclaimer from the KKK's website, reading:

The Ku Klux Klan, LLC, has not or EVER will have ANY connections with 'The Westboro Baptist Church.' We absolutely repudiate their activities."
Of course they do.

Here we see a tendency that many people have to distance themselves from Known Bigots, perhaps believing that if they don't belong to that group of Known Bigots or they repudiate these Known Bigots, then they personally have no problematic opinions they need to examine, themselves.

It also nicely illustrates a working principle wherein some people believe that if they denounce the Westboro Baptist Church they're taking some Big Time Stand against bigotry and hate. Even though it really takes no great moral courage to denounce this hate group (or for the KKK, for that matter), does it?

Many bigoted opinions and actions are far more subtle, insidious, and micro-aggressiony than the rhetoric and actions of either of these groups. These groups are widely recognized among reasonable people as being hate groups, extreme, and very problematic. And, for that reason, opinions and actions that are more subtle than WBC or KKK-style bigotry, when called out as harmful, are often more readily dismissed and trivialized (often by those who denounce the WBC) and are therefore more enduring.

I've learned that it makes some Christian anti-gay folks seriously uncomfortable when I've engaged them in conversations about actual similarities and differences between their own religiously-motivated anti-gay beliefs. Many anti-gay Christians, it seems, repudiate the WBC without actually knowing the theological basis behind the WBC's rhetoric. The differences, in many cases, seem to be more of degree than substance, although it's not widely admitted.

In fact, to broach the conversation in "mixed-company" can.... dun dun dun.... shut down the conversation because people end up feeling all "accused" of stuff and unfairly likened to a hate group. Which, of course, is more reprehensible than actually being like a hate group.

So, I guess my point here is that if a person's standard for what counts as authentic bigotry is the WBC's (or KKK's) actions and rhetoric, I think they need to seriously re-engage the issue. Like, there are ways to be a bigot or to be hurtful that involve more than the public utterance of slurs.

But alas, people want easy, simple rules, rules that don't make them seriously engage with their own complicity in oppression. They also really don't want to be called bigots. Even if they hold opinions that are really similar to the opinions of Actual Bigots.


- "We deeply resent the insinuation that we have treated homosexuals unkindly personally." -signed, people who have treated "homosexuals" unkindly.

- On Bigotry, Again

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Understanding the Power of White Maleness

Tim Wise, a white man whose author tagline touts him as "one of the most prominent anti-racist writers and educators in the United States," shares his thoughts on the Boston Marathon bombing:
"It is a lesson about race, about whiteness, and specifically, about white privilege.

I know you don’t want to hear it. But I don’t much care. So here goes.

White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in persons like yourself being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for your group to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation."
He then proceeds to list 49 white people who have engaged in terrorism, 44 of whom are men.

It is true that both white men and white women benefit from white privilege. I agree with Wise there. However, I think that white men and women, in many ways, are privileged differently in different contexts.

Wise's piece itself, unintentionally, seems teach us another lesson.

Namely, that whiteness and maleness intersect to create a rather unique privilege, one in which even if the bomber in this particular incident turns out to be yet another white man, his identity as a white man will not result in white men being singled out for suspicion, profiled, or subjected to special screenings even though it is white men when, compared to white women, who disproportionately commit this type of violence.

His gender, like his race, will not be put forth as an explanation for his actions, rendering these aspects of his identity and the socialization people undergo based on these characteristics, invisible. If a person is the Default Person, after all, people look for Other Explanations for his behavior. If the bomber turns out to be a woman, though, I think that many people would begin looking for gendered explanations for why she committed the crime.

Last year, Melissa McEwan wrote a piece in response to the Newton shooting, noting:
"There is one other subject that is off the discussion menu—and that is the fact that mass killings are committed by men almost exclusively. Of the 62 mass murders carried out with firearms across the US since 1982, 61 of them were committed by men. Forty-four of the killers were white men.
Every one of the men who picked up a gun—or multiple guns—and started shooting people was socialized in a patriarchal culture that encourages an aggressive masculinity one of the key expressions of which is meant to be violence.

That is not incidental. And you can bet your ass that if there was an epidemic of mass slaughters committed by women, their gender would be mentioned. How we raise girls would be examined. It would be talked about. Womanhood would be on the discussion menu."
And here we are.

If this particular incident was committed by a white man or white boy, it looks as though his white maleness won't be enough to warrant acknowledging, even by some progressives who are among the "most prominent" writers and educators about identity in the US.

That's a problem if we actually care about understanding violence.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Insight of the Day

It's clear to me after interactions with some folks on Internet, particularly men who aren't used to interacting with women who don't buy into the "If a man said, that settles it" line of thinking, that such people use the descriptor "passive-aggressive" as a synonym for "You.... you disagree with me, and you're direct and assertive about it? Well, I never!"

So, I guess we can add that usage of "passive aggressive" to the same list of mis-used phrases as "politically correct."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Quote of the Day

In a letter co-signed to the Republican National Committee:

"We deeply resent the insinuation that we have treated homosexuals unkindly personally."

-Gary Bauer, President, American Values
  Paul Caprio, Director, Family Pac Federal
 Marjorie Dannenfelser, President, Susan B.Anthony List
 Dr. James Dobson, President and Founder, Family Talk Action
 Andrea Lafferty, President, Traditional Values Coalition
 Tom Minnery, President, CitizenLink
 William J. Murray, Chairman, Religious Freedom Coalition
 Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
 Sandy Rios, VP of Government Affairs, Family Pac Federal
 Austin Ruse, President, Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute
 Phyllis Schlafly, President, Eagle Forum
 Rev Louis P. Sheldon, Founder, TraditionalValues Coalition 
 Tim Wildmon, President, American FamilyAssociation

Of course they resent the insinuation they've been unkind to "homosexuals." That's what people do. Just because they resent the insinuation, though, it doesn't mean they haven't been unkind to "homosexuals."

Also notable is this group's approach to attract racial minorities. It doesn't involve acknowledging the existence of racism or listening to what many people of color say they are looking for in a political party. The strategy seems to mostly involve white people not doing anything, really, except bonding with people of color over a shared opposition toward homosexuality.

It's a strategy, of course, that coincides with the National's Organization for Marriage's revealed strategic goal of "driv[ing] a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies" and "provok[ing] the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing [African-American] spokesmen and women as bigots" for opposing same-sex marriage.

How kind and civil.

Related Reading:

18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda
The Anti-Gay Movement
On Bigotry, Again

Friday, April 12, 2013

Civility and the "Real"/"Virtual" Dichotomy

I found this article somewhat interesting:
"Rudeness and throwing insults are cutting online friendships short with a survey on Wednesday showing people are getting ruder on social media and two in five users have ended contact after a virtual altercation.

As social media usage surges, the survey found so has incivility with 78 percent of 2,698 people reporting an increase in rudeness online with people having no qualms about being less polite virtually than in person.
One in five people have reduced their face-to-face contact with someone they know in real life after an online run-in."
I've emphasized a few words in this snippet, as I question the suggestion that what happens online, when humans interact, is not "real," particularly when compared to what happens offline.

And, I credit Nathan Jurgenson, of Cyborgology blog, with articulating the "digital dualism fallacy" in a way that has better informed my own thoughts about the issue.  Misty at Shakesville has also written about how threats against women are sometimes trivialized by others saying, well, it's "just the Internet," as though the threats are therefore less real, problematic, or concerning than "real life" threats.

I would contend that when people are rude online, they at least have asshole-y thoughts offline (and don't we all, really, to some degree?). Online venues merely give people an appropriate context to express those thoughts. How many day-to-day "real life" forums is it socially appropriate, say, to just start spontaneously talking about politics, showing pics of your cat, or showing solidarity with a group of people?  Social media can allow people to transcend the boundaries of face-to-face interactions and, at least in some respects, enable us to present our more authentic and deeper selves.

The surprise to me, therefore, isn't that people can be more mean online than in person, but that people seem surprised by the phenomenon - or as though this behavior is indicative of how Internet makes people less authentic, rather than more.

I generally like Facebook.  It's true that some people post "hey, how 'bout the weather" status updates that are more akin to face-to-face small talk, but I think it's utterly fascinating, telling, and informative to find out, say, that so many of my heterosexual friends and people I barely even know support marriage equality. It also gives me a heads-up on people who express bigoted opinions, which I don't think I'd have ever known otherwise. And, unlike some entitled folks, I 100% support the freedom for people to friend and un-friend people for whatever reasons they wish!

In my experience, whether people behave civilly on Internet often seems to be determined by several factors. One, being "new" to Internet written communication, and therefore not as familiar with the lack of facial and tonal cues, can make many people quick to see an enemy and bad faith lurking behind every comment.  Other factors contributing to civility would, I contend, include whether people have a basic respect for boundaries and rules of a forum, whether people are regularly exposed to people who disagree with them, the extent to which aggression is tolerated by other conversation participants and moderators, and what people think or know they can "get away with" in certain forums. 

The article continues, with some solutions to rude behavior:
" [Joseph] Grenny[, from the company who conducted the survey,] suggested peer-to-peer pressure was needed to enforce appropriate behavior online with people told if out of line.

He said three rules that could improve conversations online were to avoid monologues, replace lazy, judgmental words, and cut personal attacks particularly when emotions were high.

'When reading a response to your post and you feel the conversation is getting too emotional for an online exchange, you're right! Stop. Take it offline. Or better yet, face-to-face,' he said."
While I agree that codes of civility can and should be enforced, and am intrigued by the concept of peer pressure (rather than a top-down) moderation approach, to encourage people to stay within acceptable bounds of behavior online, I disagree that taking a conversation offline and face-to-face is automatically a "better" solution.
For some people it can be.  But, in addition to physical safety concerns, I would add that some people, including myself, believe they best express themselves via the written word. Indeed, the last thing I want to do if I'm feeling angry or hurt by someone online is to sit down with them face-to-face and "talk it out."

As a pretty strong introvert, I think it's pretty easy for extroverts or those who express themselves best orally to dominate face-to-face conversations, which I don't think is a process that necessarily results in de-escalation or mutual understanding. And, in many cases, face-to-face situations aren't feasible. But, most of all, I simply prefer the time and space that written communication gives me to step away from a conversation and then, later, to more adequately and thoughtfully express myself than if I were speaking off the cuff and in the moment.
The advice to take a conversation offline and face-to-face seems to be grounded back in an assumption that written correspondence is maybe less authentic than face-to-face, oral communication.

To end here on a somewhat random note, I recently had one of those early morning half-awake/half-asleep "brilliant thoughts" where I wondered, maybe if when we die our consciousness somehow lives on, cybernetically, in the communications we've submitted on Internet. And then, my last thought before going back to sleep was, "Damn, I should be writing more L Word posts and fan fiction."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Anti-Gay Groups Promote Truancy

Each year, I'm always amused by Team Anti-Gay's over-the-top opposition to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network's Day of Silence. This event's mission is to bring "attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools," which students can choose to participate in by taking a vow of silence for a day.

A "who's who" group of various anti-gay hate groups and organizations are promoting their own "Day of Silence Walkout," claiming:
 "This year [the Day of Silence] will take place in most public schools on April 19, 2013. On this day, thousands of public high schools and increasing numbers of middle schools will allow students to remain silent throughout an entire day – even during instructional time – to promote GLSEN's socio-political goals and its controversial, unproven, and destructive theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality.

Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes."
Non-violent resistance must truly be threatening to these groups if they have to frame students passively remaining silent as something that's as active and violent as "hijacking" a classroom.

And, I contend that the Day of Silence is so threatening to these groups precisely because, its very nature - LGBT allies being silent - makes it incredibly difficult for anti-gay groups and individuals to turn themselves into persecuted victims of gay bullies. It simply fails to fulfill the Christian prophecy wherein some people believe that to be called a bigot is all part of the torture they have to endure on account of their religious beliefs. 

I'll also note that these groups seem to hate it when LGBT allies speak, and they hate it when we're silent. Which of course begs the over-riding question that's so rarely answered (other than the obvious, what the hell kind of Team Moral Authority is anti- anti-bullying programs??), what exactly is the place of LGBT people in a society, to these groups? 

Where, specifically, do the LGBT folks and the same-sex couples belong in the ideal world of those who oppose LGBT rights and same-sex marriage? In a heterosexual relationship? In "reparative therapy"? In a same-sex "civil union" that's Definitely Not Marriage? Where? Anywhere?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Wednesday Re-post

I was going through my archives the other day, and after the past few weeks I've had on Internet, thought it would be fun to re-post this article I wrote about 2 years ago.

When I wrote the post, it was in reaction to comments I had seen men make regarding a newspaper that had cropped Hillary Clinton out of an image, for religious reasons. Reading them, I could have predicted many of the comments, before even looking at them.

What I'm about to say isn't a huge startling revelation, but the more I blog, especially in mixed-company, the more I see the same arguments, the same approaches, and the same patterns occur. Over and over and over again.  Miscommunication. Poor communication. Cryptic one-liners. Lack of understanding. Frustration. Hurt. Anger. Poor listening. Tone policing. Trolling. Baiting. Gotchas. The pervasive buying into of the notion that as long as no one is saying curse words or throwing slurs around, then nothing uncivil is happening.

I think that a good civility policy, if enforced, could facilitate some of these issues. But, enforcement takes time and energy, time and energy that I can't do on my own, and certainly not in forums that I don't operate or moderate. 

So, more and more, I question the utility of trying to engage in other forums in mixed-company, so-called civil dialogue with people whose starting points to conversations are, to me, uncivil - such as debating same-sex marriage with people who oppose it, whilst we also all operate on the unspoken rule that the word bigoted mustn't ever be uttered.  Or, navigating conversations where the full extent of gay people's hurt or oppression cannot be explicitly acknowledged, lest we be mocked or accused, ironically, of  "making accusations." Or, say, where we treat every anti-feminist New Guy's response of "so we can never make jokes anymore anywhere, then?!" like it's a Really Good Point, lest we be accused of creating a Feminist Echo Chamber.

And, do I want to repeatedly have conversations about, say, why we let infertile couples marry but not same-sex couples marry, if marriage is supposedly about procreation? Do I want to center the feelings of people who oppose my equality, to never have to feel discomfort about their complicity in an unjust, and dare I say bigoted, system? Do I want to salve the consciences, defensiveness, anger, and hurt feelings of men, in conversations about male privilege and sexism, while I walk on eggshells so as to not appear at all in the least bit angry or hurt myself so I won't be dismissed as emotional?

What is my role in some of these mixed-company spaces? To dialogue? To broaden understanding? To silence others? To diversify a forum? To create community? To be an empty vessel into which people can dump their projections, frustrations, and neuroses? To humanize the opposition? To be a target for people's anger? To be a sounding board for people's pet theories about How The World Works?

I think if a dozen people were asked that question, I'd see a dozen different answers.  I'm not sure if any of them would be accurate.

When I think about how communicating with like-minded feminists differs from communicating with those who are overtly hostile toward, or even ignorant of, progressivism and feminism, I think about how my approaches change from context to context.

As I wrote a couple of months ago, getting men and "people complicit in problematic oppressions" to agree with me doesn't tend to be my number one blogging priority.  I think that's why some people, even some alleged supporters of same-sex marriage, are shocked and appalled that I might use the b-word (bigotry) when they believe that that word, as opposed to bigotry itself, "shuts down conversations" or destroys community.

I see a greater purpose in feminist readers finding affirmation, truth, and solace in my writings, against so many people hell-bent on gaslighting and convincing them that they're crazy, foolish, oversensitive for caring about or reacting a particular way to a certain issue.  Yet, when I converse in mixed-company, I find that substance often takes a backseat in the conversation since the parties have to work through a host of conflicting assumptions, patterns, and stereotypes that mixed-company interactions necessarily bring to the table.

In such a context, for instance, I'm wary of calling myself a feminist, as I know that will often involve men taking ignorant cheap shots at the entirety of feminism, people reading a "hatred of men" into everything I write, or trying to bait me into a conversation about abortion, gender roles, or how men are really the oppressed ones, in conversations in which these issues are not germane.

I'm wary of discussing my agnosticism, as that invariably involves people assuming that I completely lack values and principles, unlike religious people, and how therefore everything I say is evidence of "moral relativism" or nihilism.

I'm reluctant to call myself a progressive, as people try to play games of "gotcha" wherein if I express "disapproval" of One Thing, I'm a raging hypocrite because, don't you know, progressives are "all about tolerance" and therefore we must be "tolerant" of all things everywhere or else we lose all moral authority to judge anyone about anything.

When I'm conversing with some men, I wonder, is he taking on a condescending "neutral arbiter" demeanor because he's a man and I'm a woman and he therefore thinks he's automatically the objective party in the convo, or is he just kind of an asshole to everyone?

I dislike communicating with people who hold Very Strong Opinions, who do not express those opinions clearly or well, and yet who are hellbent on expressing those opinions anyway, while assigning bad faith to others when the inevitable misunderstanding occurs.

After more than 6 years of doing this, I've developed some semblance of awareness after being repeatedly exposed to these types of patterns in communication and interactions.  As I talk about labels, I also realize it's a delicate dance to, myself, remain open to dialogue while also preserving my own sanity and well-being in these conversations.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Quote of the Day

On leading Louisville to an upset win in the Sweet Sixteen over Baylor, the team with perhaps the most dominant woman ever to play NCAA basketball:
"It's my mentality to keep going at her. She's Brittney Griner, but I mean, I'm Shoni Schimmel, so I'm going to keep going at her, you know?"
It's such a great quote.

To many fans, it was a foregone conclusion that Baylor, the tournament's No. 1 seed, would win another championship. Many had this belief largely because Baylor's not only a great team, but they have the talents of 6'8" star player, Griner, whom at least one NBA coach would offer the opportunity for a tryout. (Griner's Twitter response: "I would hold my own! Let's do it!")

What I love about Schimmel's quote is that it's not empty, foolish bravado. It's emblematic of confidence combined with actual ability to back it up - and it's a confidence that endured against an Expert Narrative telling her that she and her team didn't have a shot in hell.

I've enjoyed watching Griner and some experts think that Baylor losing will make the NCAA Finals less exciting to watch, but, well, I love an underdog story, so I'd love to see Louisville seal the deal. (Are these adequate sporty colloquialisms? I'm not sure. I just keep hearing Sportscaster Voice in my head, saying some of these things as I write this post.)

Nonetheless, best wishes to both players in the future!

Monday, April 8, 2013

On Bigotry, Again

Although I did not get to the conversation in time to participate before the thread reached the 50-comment limit, I'd like to re-kindle the conversation about Barry's post, "Kind, smart, lovely people sometimes support bigoted public policy."

Whether the word "bigoted" is fair to apply to the viewpoint of opposition to same-sex marriage, whether the label is used to "deliberately" shut down conversation, and what the word "bigoted" even means are recurring issues in conversations at Family Scholars Blog.

Matthew Kaal, for instance, cited the Merriam-Webster definition of "bigot," which states:
"a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance"
This definition, as Victor noted, differs from Merriam-Webster's Thesaurus definition of "bigoted," which is:
  “unwilling to grant other people social rights or to accept other viewpoints."
The latter reflects, in my experience, the way many people commonly use the word "bigoted."

Even if we can't agree which definition or usage of the word bigoted is authoritative, I do think it's important for conversation participants to know how other participants are using a particular word. So, I can appreciate the value of that aspect of the conversation.

However, today, I'd like to highlight an aspect of Barry's post that I believe got a little lost in the conversation. Here, Teresa made a common accusation against those who use the word "bigoted":
"For me, my commenting as anti-ssm, seen as a bigoted position … although that’s not how I understood it at the time … was no longer acceptable at [Family Scholars Blog]. That’s how the common usage today of the word bigot/bigotry seems to work, in my opinion. It closes down discussion. It deliberately wants to do that, in my opinion." [ellipses in original]
Although this comment has some unclear passivity going on in it, Teresa suggests that those who use the words bigot or bigotry are "deliberately" trying to close down discussion. She further clarified her position:
 "How does it enhance discourse to throw labels at persons or positions which, by their current very nature, are meant to shut someone up? Either we argue an issue on merit/demerit, or we’re left flaming one another. I’m sure you agree, Barry. I’m, also, quite sure that you did not intend to close down discourse … but, that’s quite where we’re at today, unfortunately."
I'm only singling Teresa's comment here because she happened to be someone expressing it in this conversation. But, in my experience, it's a pretty common accusation, and one that's leveled against me at times at Family Scholars Blog, despite the general agreement that assuming bad faith is a violation of the site's civility policy.

To address this accusation, I think it's important to do a quick re-cap (my emphasis):
  • First, the title of Barry's post: "Kind, smart, lovely people sometimes support bigoted policy." 
  • Secondly, Barry's statement to Teresa, within his post, that even though she holds what he finds to be a bigoted position, he tells Teresa, "....that’s not to say that you’re a bigot, a hateful person, or acting out of spite or out of 'yuk.' From the little I’ve seen of you online, you seem like a lovely person, not at all hateful."
  • Third, he says, "...if you do have some bigoted attitudes that you need to fight against, that doesn’t make you a bad person. Nor do I think that makes you any different from me. Or from most people. Surely we all have some prejudices and bigotries inside that we have to work on."
  •  Fourth, he concedes, "History makes it clear that good, sincere people who are not hateful, can nonetheless hold bigoted positions."
  • Fifth, he says, "So when I say that being against legal SSM is a bigoted policy, that’s all I’m saying. I’m not saying that those who oppose SSM are bigots (no more so than anyone else, anyhow); I’m not denying that they are frequently smart, loving, and kind people."
  • And lastly, in the comments, he tells Teresa, "In the prior post, I specifically told you that you were extremely welcome to post on my thread, and that I was hoping you’d post more." 
So, I guess what I'm left wondering is what more do opponents of same-sex marriage want from people who genuinely and sincerely believe that opposition to same-sex marriage is a bigoted (or anti-gay, as I would argue) position to hold in order to convince you that we are not trying to "deliberately" "shut down discourse" about the issue?

I agree with Barry that "kind, smart, lovely people sometimes support bigoted policy." And, I also believe that other people who are more problematic, like members of the Westboro Baptist Church, can at times, be "kind, smart, lovely people" themselves.  It's not realistic or accurate, in my experience, to think that people are 100% monsters or 100% saints.

So, if we can go back to the definitional issue for a moment, I agree with Barry that the word "bigotry" includes connotations that acknowledge a broader, more systemic history of oppression that also-appropriate words like "unjust" do not include. To me, that is the importance of using the word bigotry - it is, in my opinion, simply a more accurate, specific representation of reality.  It contains history.

Yet, Barry's post was still tepid.

It made big concessions that acknowledged a nuanced reality that some people can be kind, loving people in some contexts while being problematic in others. It acknowledged that not all opponents of same-sex marriage are horrible monsters. It acknowledged that we all likely have work to do on being aware of our own biases and bigotries. Barry specifically welcome Teresa to continue commenting and expressed hope that she would "post more."

In light of these facts, I think it is incredibly unfair and unjustified to make the general, unqualified accusation that people who use the word bigot are "deliberately" trying to silence people or shut down conversation.  I  think that if Teresa, or others, choose to remove themselves from forums like Family Scholars Blog because some people believe they hold a bigoted position, that neither Barry, nor I, nor those who fairly use the word "bigotry" are to blame.

In these conversations at Family Scholars Blog, same-sex marriage is explicitly treated as a debatable conversation topic amongst people of varying views. People are going to experience discomfort at times. I certainly experience discomfort. Participating in such conversations does require somewhat of a capability to endure other people making judgments about us or are beliefs that we feel are not deserved. When it crosses the line, by the site's civility policy, is when people refuse to assume good faith and engage in personal attacks while having these conversations or in making these judgments.

In my opinion, the facts establish that Barry extended an assumption of good faith to Teresa, and many opponents of same-sex marriage, that Teresa and some folks are utterly unwilling so far to extend to him, me, and everyone who uses the word "bigotry."

[Cross-posted at Family Scholars Blog]

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Fun, Redux

Maybe from now on it will be L Word Fridays here in Fannie's Room. Who knows, I'm open to experimentation, although, I dunno, do you think that might be possibly alienating to the bigot lurkers of this blog? Maybe I'll make Tuesdays Straight Pride Day, or something.

But seriously, I liked the comments and conversation that ensued after my post expressing excitement about The L Word now streaming on Netflix. Riffing off my appreciating for Jenny Schecter, commenter aravind referenced Jenny's apt counter to her creepy roommate, Mark, who had secretly installed cameras throughout the house and bedrooms so he and his pervy friend could watch Lesbians Having Sex (and make a movie about it, without the consent of said lesbians... I mean, really, what could possibly go wrong?).

Throughout the episodes leading up to this revelation, Mark was frequently portrayed as a Nice Guy, other than his acts of transgressing serious boundaries. For instance, he seemed genuinely into wanting to understand Shane's mentality, and even helped defend her from a violent assault. The storyline really underscores a recurring theme in my Internet interactions wherein people can be nice in some contexts and really problematic in others, which is a concept that seems to completely elude many people.

I was able to find a clip of Jenny ultimately confronting Mark about his voyeurism:

Here's a transcript of the relevant quote, in which Jenny is speaking to Mark:
"What I want is for you to write 'fuck me' on your chest. Write it. Do it! And then I want you to walk out that door and I want you to walk down the street, and anybody that wants to fuck you, say, 'Sure! Sure! No problem!' And when they do, you have to say, 'Thank you very, very much.' And make sure that you have a smile on your face. And then, you stupid fucking coward, you're gonna know what it feels like to be a woman."
As I said in the comments to my post from last week, I'm really starting to question people throwing the "crazy" label on Jenny. I mean, sure, she's quirky, but I think she has a real gift for Telling It Like It Is, more than any other character on the series. While the other characters have varying levels of political awareness around gay issues (and little, but somewhat evolving, awarenesses, about trans* issues), Jenny seems to be the character whose politics and understanding of LGBT issues is informed the most explicitly by feminism. (The big exception being that she, and pretty much everyone else, is a real asshole to their 1 transgender friend, Max. In fact, The L Word's handling of trans issues seemed awkward, in general.)

Secondly, commenter Faaaaaan expressed disappointment that there hasn't really been a replacement for L Word, as perhaps some of us expected when the show ended. Lip Service was decent, but at what? 8 episodes or something, was also very brief.

I've also been watching Lost Girl, which I love for many reasons. It portrays sexual orientation as something that is not explicitly acknowledged or remarked upon, which can be a mixed bag. Bisexual and lesbian characters are, simply, unremarkable and normal in the world of Lost Girl. And, accordingly, big "coming out" conversations (around sexual orientation, at least) don't really occur. This portrayal can be refreshing, as it suggests the possibility of potentially living in such a world where people "don't even see sexual orientation" (or race, of course), but it also elides the reality that bigotry is still a real thing and many people actually don't think bisexuality or homosexuality are benign, normal states of being.

Welp, I initially intended today's post to be light and stuff, and it still can be.

I mean, I've been re-watching old episodes before bed all week, and while the series isn't perfect, there are so many great and funny moments. Like, when Dana, Alice, and Shane have the intervention with Bette and Tina, who only talk about their pregnancy and have become....boring? And Marina, who is so over-the-top seductive it's more funny than anything. And Alice, who contends that "there's a lot going on down there."


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Of Course

As you may have heard, Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice was recently fired after ESPN aired a video showing him physically and verbally abusing his players during a practice, including throwing basketballs at them "at point blank range" and calling them by homophobic slurs.

The university administrators admit to having known about Rice's behavior for some time. They only fired him after the video went public and after outrage ensued.

So, of course, Rice being fired, to some defenders of aggressive, entitled masculinity, constitutes PC Gone Awry.  Or, as Fox News commentator Eric Bolling calls it, "the wussification" of America. Here's his comment in full:
"This story kind of infuriates me. We’re in the midst of political correctness crushing our ability to teach kinds, to discipline kids, to disagree with people or one another or kids. Our culture is in decline, but this is an example of our culture in free fall. And I’m saying this because he got fired, not because of what he did… Listen, it’s time to toughen up. Talk about the wussification of America, the wussification of American men."
"Political correctness," so we meet again.  Was there ever a more asinine phrase in the English language?  Other than "wussification of American men," that is?

In this instance, by "political correctness," Bolling seems to mean that "holding people to standards of basic civility and non-abusive behavior" are what's responsible for the decline of "our culture."  But, of course, he can't just say that without looking like a total ass and losing all credibility, so he hides behind the phrase "political correctness" while purporting to be some brave truth-teller and defender of "our culture" against the swarming masses of the PC Police who are getting all upset about nothing.

I guess what I wonder most about critics of "political correctness" is what world they are living in if they think the problem with culture these days is that people are too darn nice to one another, or that society doesn't have serious issues with respecting people's boundaries.

Over at another blog, I got into a conversation with a self-proclaimed Christian man who (a) freely admits to verbally abusing people he disagrees with in order to shut them up, and (b) who also claims to welcome the experience of being victimized himself so he can fulfill the Christian prophecy wherein Christians are, supposedly, to be persecuted for their faith.

This type of mind game seems somewhat common in US politics, even though many people aren't as open as this particular man is about his tactics.

A goal of some conservatives seems to be to provoke people into anger so that the provocateur can end up feeling like an oppressed victim, in the end.  Here, we are to believe that it's bullies who deserve our sympathy, not because they are damaged people, but because they are being victimized by "political correctness."

There's just something so insincere about it all.  I find that people who use the phrase "political correctness" rarely say what they mean, or truly mean what they say in political conversations, and using the phrase "political correctness" in this particular instance of abuse seems to be a prime example of this sort of insincerity.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Benevolent Sexism, Again

Melanie Tannenbaum has written again on benevolent sexism.  I'm not sure if she wrote the title of her piece too, but I like it:
"The Problem When Sexism Just Sounds So Darn Friendly..."
The notion that one can be sexist if one hasn't intended to be is still a big stumbling block for many people when it comes to acknowledging that they have engaged in something that is sexist (or racist or transphobic or homophobic). That a person can be sexist even if they thought they were, or intended to be, nice, seems to be completely unfathomable.

Although the conclusion that benevolent sexism is both "real and insidiously dangerous" is one that many readers of this blog already agree with as it is backed up by some actual evidence, I want to draw attention to the portion of Tannenbaum's piece where she notes that expressions of benevolent sexism often correlate with expressions of hostile sexism:
"In a later paper, Glick and Fiske went on to determine the extent to which 15,000 men and women across 19 different countries endorse both hostile and benevolently sexist statements. First of all, they found that hostile and benevolent sexism tend to correlate highly across nations. So, it is not the case that people who endorse hostile sexism don’t tend to endorse benevolent sexism, whereas those who endorse benevolent sexism look nothing like the 'real' sexists. On the contrary, those who endorsed benevolent sexism were likely to admit that they also held explicit, hostile attitudes towards women (although one does not necessarily have to endorse these hostile attitudes in order to engage in benevolent sexism)."
In my experience, those who treat women like delicate flowers also treat us like we're not fully human, or capable, in the way that men are.

A few years ago, for instance, I worked with a man who expressed benevolent sexism pretty frequently in interactions with female co-workers.  For instance, if we had to carry boxes from one office to another, he would say, "My policy is to never let a female carry something in my presence."  (Yes, using "female" as a noun. It's so often a "female," with these men, right?). Another time, I was appointed to chair a committee to work on a special project. He was also on the committee, and he joked, "She's a female, I have no doubt she can whip us into shape."

These are the kind of sexist subtleties in the workplace that are not readily-recognized by, I guess, people who aren't feminist, as digs.  To complain about them, to either the person saying them or to Human Resources, is to look like a "crazy person," oversensitive, or just looking for shit to get mad about.

But, the thing is, people who express benevolently sexist ideas are acknowledging that they view men and women as discrete, fundamentally different (or "opposite") creatures and that they, accordingly, treat men and women very differently.  When this type of thinking about gender is therefore moved from one context to another, their beliefs about gender will necessarily be expressed in different, oftentimes less "friendly" ways.

For, it turns out that although my male co-worker liked to joke about my prowess with respect to whipping people into shape in a committee, he wasn't super into actually acknowledging my authority or competence with respect to the project we were working on together.

At the first committee meeting, his behavior was disruptive, unprepared, and mansplainy. While other participants adhered to the practice of "following the meeting agenda," he would go off on too-long, tangential monologues about ideas that were irrelevant to the purpose of our project while being unreceptive to my (and others') attempts to get him back on track.  And, most tellingly, when he failed to submit his portion of the project before the meeting, he handed it to me 5 minutes before the meeting started and, in front of the group asked, "Can you go run copies of this?"  (I said no).

But, message received. A woman doesn't have to carry anything in his presence (except for his documents, I suppose), but she also can't or shouldn't try to lead in his presence either, because that's a man's job.

So, I guess the point here is that yes, benevolent sexism can look harmless. But when I see it, it's a good red flag that there's something darker lying just below the surface, waiting for the right context to reveal itself.