Saturday, June 28, 2014

Blogging Note

I'm going to be quite busy for about the next week, so I've set up the blog so that comments will go directly to the moderation queue for the time being.

I'll change the comment settings back to normal in about a week when I have more time to blog and respond to comments.  I don't expect any shitstorms to happen here, but in the off chance that it did happen, I don't have time to take out of my day to deal with it.

Thanks for understanding!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Civility, Safety, and Harassment Links

Here's some stuff I've been reading lately pertaining to one of my fave topics of Internet harassment, civility, and threats:

1) Geek Feminism has a Code of Conduct.  I think it's a good idea for, especially, larger group blogs and sites to have explicit codes like this, although content may vary.  As I've written before, I've been a guest blogger in environments without explicit guidelines on comment moderation, conduct, and harassment, and my volunteer writing in those spaces is an experience I would not want to repeat.

2) Here's an interesting article about the strategies some feminist bloggers have used to resist trolls and harassers on Internet.  Particularly, I appreciated the framing of such strategies as "collective labor" to be apt, as yes, it takes actual work to make a site safe.  It doesn't just happen.

3) Over at Cyborgology, robinjames writes about being perceived online as male, due to her name, and how that might result in her receiving less harassment online than women with more "feminine"-(my scare quotes)-seeming names.

4) The other day, National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) posted a braggy video on its blog purportedly showing how kind, loving, and civil opponents of marriage equality were while attending NOM's recent march in DC.  These interviews of march attendees show, according to NOM, how the Liberal Homosexualist Media unfairly portrays equality opponents as So Mean, when look right here at how nice these people are being at their "historic" (my scare quotes) march against equality:

Here's the first person interviewed, speaking in response to a "reporter's" question on why she attended the March: "I feel like it's my duty to do it. I don't want my children to ask 'Why did you not fight for me, Mom?'"

The second person interviewed explained, "God made us that way. He made a male and a female to come together as one."

That's about as a far as I got because, yeah no.  Not only are those "reasons" for opposing marriage equality nonsensical and irrational, they are also not civil.  Same-sex marriage will not hurt your bigoted non-existent future kid, lady. And, a person's neat-o religious beliefs about "males" and "females" should have no bearing on my equal rights.

But.... nice try.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Little Blog

At my blog, I occasionally get the drive-by anti-feminist commenter who's read like 1 post of mine ever and thinks he's suddenly a Fannie's Room expert.

A common theme among these commenters is their assumption about their place in the world relative to mine.  Namely, that they're speaking from a place of objective authority over what I write about and that they, being men, have the power to take me down a notch.

Two days ago, Guesticon stopped by to opine, out of nowhere:
"lol well done for proving exactly why we need MRA's because of sad little twisting sexisit attitudes like yours, that want females to be in a position of dominace over men, because somehow in your twisted immature mindset, us men being your property will make us equals."(emphasis added)
In this case, Guesticon not only distorts my writing, but tries to trivialize it.

Even as they appear to do no blogging of their own, anti-feminist men sometimes show up here to do this.  They cannot stand that women are allowed to blog.  They loathe that we, while being women, say things about gender that they disagree with.  Too lazy and entitled to do true, helpful advocacy work for men, they certainly don't want women to do such work or writing for women.

Ban me from you little blog, they say. Hold your little opinions, they bark. Talk to your little friends here, they mock.

Thus, even as Guesticon fantasizes about my fictitious fantasies about feeeeeeeeemales dominating men, he himself, and men like him, attempt to assert dominance over me, this blog, and my writing.

And yes, my blog is relatively little in the grand scheme of things.  It's a 1-woman endeavor that I do in my free time and continue to do so because I get enough feedback from people that say that enjoy it and find it helpful. Becoming the next Huffington Post has never been my ultimate goal.  Impressing anti-feminists is not my endgame.

I think most people who read this blog regularly already know that.

It's still good to call out the behavior of Guesticon for what it is, just because it's a theme that pops up here sometimes.

Threats, trivaliaizing our work, showing up to distort our writing: all in the anti-feminist toolbox of ways they try to get women on Internet to shut up.

ps - I'm a lesbian. Having men as my "property" is also not high on my list of life goals.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Assholes Made Me Better at Debate

A Pema Chodron book I read says that those who challenge us, who trigger our strong emotions like anger and fear, have a lot to teach us. Or some shit. I doubt I'm noble or enlightened enough to truly embody the gratitude we're probably supposed to feel about that.

Yet, I have learned things during the course of having Internet Discussions, from those who have been quite hostile. Not, like rape-threat-level hostility, but more micro-aggression-level (I guess?) hostility such as regularly being assumed intellectually inferior than men in conversations and debating my basic human dignity and equality with, say, anti-LGBT people.

I've compiled some tips that I try to follow in mixed-company conversations. I'm not saying I follow these tips 100% of the time, as conversations and contexts differ widely.  And, I'm not saying others should follow them. I just thought they might be helpful for others, when confronting assholes while navigating Internet.

1) Questions

I try to limit rhetorical or satirical questions. They invite the opponent to fill in an answer made at your expense.

For instance, in a recent conversation, one anti-feminist who had spent practically an entire day WhatAboutTheMenz-ing a feminist article sarcastically asked me, "Whatever shall I do with myself now that a feminist has disagreed with me?" 

I responded, "Probably go find another feminist conversation to derail."

In general, I try to limit other people's openings to make snappy retorts.

2)  Feeding the Trolls

I know some people take a "don't feed the trolls" philosophy to Internet.  For several reasons, I am not one of those people.  

Just a couple of these reasons are that engaging with trolls and assholes has helped me understand the patterns they engage in during conversation and better predict their responses to my commentary.

For instance, after spending (seriously) years debating same-sex marriage with anti-LGBT crowds, I became well-versed in the "gender complementary" argument against equality, which many purport to be the "civil, non-bigoted" reason for opposing equality.

I learned to ask, in various ways, "You say that men and women each bring their own unique skill sets to marriage, so can you please provide a list of all the things men are incapable of providing in a relationship, and vice versa for women?"  

This question makes gender complementarists very uncomfortable.  At one anti-gay blog, I was dismissed as a "troll" for asking it. But, for the record, that list, which I've yet to see, is I think very small.  And, I think many anti-gay folks know that, no matter what they bluster about on their blogs. Which leads me to:

3) Doubt

Sometimes, a conversation that might look or feel like a loss because it's escalated beyond all repair, isn't a total loss. Sometimes, arguing rationally with someone plants seeds of doubt in the person I'm arguing with.  It's rare, in my experience, for someone to admit within a debate that their mind has been somewhat changed or they are re-thinking things, but I think it does happen.  Probably more than we know.

4) Ignorant Supremacists

I try to pay attention to when an anti-feminist man is "speaking off the cuff" about something.  If we're talking about, say, anti-gay laws in Africa, I sometimes check out Wikipedia to see if it looks like he's basically lifted his talking points, without attribution, from Wikipedia, passing them off as his own "brilliance."

I also stop, take a step back and ask myself, do his generalizing comments about feminists suggest that his knowledge of feminism is limited to what anti-feminists say feminists are and a handful of out-of-context feminist quotes?  

I sometimes call him out on it and directly challenge him to articulate his knowledge of feminists and feminist works.  I ask him what works he's read and what feminist blogs he regularly reads that inform his opinions.  I see if he can even accurately articulate what major feminist thinkers think or thought.

Oftentimes, he'll bail, not answer, or make a vague statements about "feminists in general" suggesting he doesn't have a firm, informed grasp on the nuances and differences among feminisms.

5) Feeling and Thinking

I try to limit "I feel" statements.  Do I, for instance, "feel" that something was sexist? No. I often conclude that something was sexist, using logic and arguments. I think that something is sexist, or know that it's so. 

Anti-feminists love playing on the feminists-are-hypersensitive trope.  And, even if I've laid out a rational argument as to why something is sexist, men will often dismiss it by saying something like, "your feeeeeelings have no bearing on whether that's really sexist." 

6) Swearing

In direct conversation with, especially, anti-LGBT Christians, I try not to swear. Some of these people perceive swearing as akin to a severe human rights violation. Once, for instance, I wrote, "Jesus!" in frustration on an anti-LGBT blog, and had a string of my comments deleted while the moderator publicly suggested that I was being the Most Uncivil Harasser On Internet Ever.

I've seen it happen probably hundreds of times.  A person debates atheism, religion, homosexuality, feminism, whatever with a conservative Christian.  The debater makes the "mistake" of swearing, and the Christian responds with something like, "I'm sorry, I thought this was a civilized conversation. Peace out."  

I think some people are genuinely That Offended by swearing.  Yet, I also think some people use their offense at swearing as a pretext to dismiss the other person's argument and position.  Swearing, to some people, puts you in the position of the uncivil one, even if the other person is treating your human dignity as a fun debating point.

I generally am in favor of swearing, but in some conversations I recognize that it's a distraction, so I avoid it.

Feel free to share your approaches in the comments.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What An Anti-Feminist Looks Like

“She has a problem with the fact that I said that she had a serious health incident and that I thought that would be a bigger part of her personal calculation than most people anticipate. [...] She is antagonistic toward the press, and has a very thin skin. She will abide no criticism. It’s one of the least attractive things we see in Hillary Clinton,” [Karl Rove] continued.
This quote perfectly captures how sexist men treat women in the public arena.

First, note his use of the words "least" "attractive." Sure Rove might say he was "just" referring to a non-physical trait of Clinton's, but in both dictionary and common usage, "attractive" is generally used to suggest something along the lines of sexually or romantically pleasing, or appealing to the senses. Here, Rove notes that her alleged inability to receive criticism is the "least" attractive thing about her - that is, just one of many not attractive things about Clinton.

While reasonable people should agree that a person's appearance is irrelevant to their competence in politics, the sexist man holds himself out as objective arbiter of female attractiveness, while himself usually benefitting from the reality that male politicians have less of a history of their appearances being impediments to their careers. Rove himself being a good example of that.

Second, Hillary Clinton receives more vitriol, more hatred, more misogyny, more attacks - by virtue of being a liberal public female figure - than most women (and men) do.  I reckon she has developed a pretty thick skin, actually, contrary to Rove's mansplainy declaration otherwise and, especially as of late, often uses humor to re-direct and counter the misogyny.

When rape threats are the new "normal" for some feminist bloggers, many feminist women are not, actually, the hypersensitive emotional hysterics that sexist men portray us as. Such men know little to nothing about our lives and experiences.

Oftentimes, in fact, reality is the reverse of what sexist men say it is.

Studies show that every time a man claims that a woman has "very thin skin," there are at least 150 men on the Internet taking Very Serious Offense to a woman gently telling them that something they said was "problematic" (that oft-used word we sometimes use to trivialize -isms because it makes oh-so-sensitive privileged folks feel less threatened in conversations).

I mean, it strikes me as pretty thin-skinned that so many men cannot participate in conversations about gender with women without  falsely suggesting they're being clobbered, killed, and attacked by women who are merely disagreeing with them.  

They can abide no criticism. Especially not from women.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Anti-Feminist Accidentally Reveals Agenda

[Content note: threats]

Over at Thought Catalog (via Shakesville), Chloe Angyal wrote a piece about how the receipt of rape threats are her new "normal."  It's what she now has to endure for being a feminist blogger.

I think many feminist bloggers and readers know that feminists who speak publicly receive threats from men. And, I also know that many bloggers, for various reasons, choose not to divulge the extent of what they receive. What I want to highlight today is a common attitude, particularly among anti-feminists and MRAs, that I believe contributes to more people not knowing or caring about such threats.

After Chloe's article, it took about 2 seconds before multiple men chimed in to begin dominating and gaslighting the entire conversation. One particularly articulate commenter opined:
"keep it up - we all know that feminists love playing the poooor pooooooooor wictims, ohhh boo hoooooooo. someone cry for the pooooor widdle wimmins. they have it sooooooo hard. ohhh boooo hooo"
AToyRobot chimed in:
"Another person who can't tell the obvious difference between a real threat and trolling... news flash, you're a feminist, therefore you will get trolls saying rapey things to push your buttons. It's a reality, and we need to stop pretending these are actual threats."
He repeated this theme several times throughout the discussion, nothing that those who disagreed with him lack "common sense."  Which of course plays on absolutely no tropes about men being super rational and women being overdramatic hysterics.

So, there's a lot going on in these comments.

Just as anti-feminist blogger Ballgame recently accused feminists of engaging in bad faith "anti-MRA smears" in the wake of the UCSB shooting, rather than attributing feminist responses to a more accurate motivations of fear and concern, these anti-feminist commenters make a similar mistake.  They claim, with no evidence whatsoever, that feminists only bring up the threats we receive so people will see us as victims, while also claiming that these threats are "just" trolling. You know, that good, clean All-American hobby of the 21st century.

The complacency surrounding the threats feminists receives is, I believe, partly explained by the anti-feminist and MRA worldview positing that feminists and MRAs are just two equal and opposite sides of a debate, each heaping aggression and violence in equal measures upon the other side with equal consequence in a society in which feminists kill, attack, and threaten men just as frequently as anti-feminists kill, attack, and threaten women. 

Yet, that is not the case. And, because it's not the case that feminist women pervasively threaten male-anti-feminists with, say, "rape by envelopment," murder, and grave bodily harm, I think it's easy for anti-feminists and MRAs to think of feminists talking about the threats we receive as a cheap "political play" to "score points."  

What we see here is a major privilege and empathy gap.

Anti-feminist men and MRAs personally don't receive a shit-ton of menacing emails with their addresses included, with photos of their families, with detailed descriptions of how their penises might be dismembered, so they can't imagine other people - women - actually receiving them and being scared by them.  And, mind you, this theory is giving anti-feminists a benefit of the doubt that they're not actually thrilled with the idea of threats silencing feminist bloggers.

The threats that feminist bloggers receive anger me.  What also angers me, because it's part of the problem, is the flippant way that anti-feminists treat threats and, consequently, demand that we and the rest of society treat these threats.

Like, what is it about women talking about these threats that's so, well, threatening to anti-feminist men?

I speculate that, again, it comes down to entitlement.  Many anti-feminists and MRAs sincerely believe that men are much more oppressed than women.  They personally don't want to, don't know how to, or don't think it's their job to do tangible things, often in the form of unpaid labor like what many feminist bloggers advocates engage in, to help men. But, they also can't stand women doing things to help women and engaging in activities in which men are not centered.

"....[M]en are violently assaulted three times as much as women and we don't walk around wringing our hands and writing nonsense think pieces all over the internet about how HARD it is to be a man."
Of course not. Because anti-feminists and MRAs do nothing for men. They just want feminist women to shut the fuck up already.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Obvious News: Female Construction Workers Harassed, MRAs Do Nothing

Men's rights activists (MRAs) often claim that men are "more naturally drawn to" more dangerous, more labor-intensive employment than women are, often citing the construction industry as an example.

Oftentimes, this claim is made in support of two conclusions: (1) Therefore, they claim, men "deserve" higher pay than women (if the MRA can even admit that a wage gap exists); and (2) Therefore, men make up the majority of reported workplace injuries and deaths, with either explicit or implicit argument that, somehow, this higher rate of male injury/death in the workplace is the fault of feminists.  Because logic-reasons. Or, sometimes, the argument is that feminists are "hypocrites" for  purportedly "not caring" about these statistics, or for not taking "enough action," to solve this dangerous situation for men.

Recently, ThinkProgress ran an interesting, and surprising to no one, piece about the pervasive harassment that women experience in the construction industry. Recounting the story of one woman, who studied civil engineering and had hopes of going into construction management:
"Those hopes were dashed on the very first day. She went to the construction site along with another young woman and two young men. The first construction manager who came to get them 'literally split us down gender lines,' she said. 'He grabbed the two boys and said, ‘Come with me.’' As an excuse, he told the two women, 'Sorry, I don’t work with women in this job, it’s nothing personal.'
It got worse from there. 
'These men I worked with asked me out on dates, which was totally inappropriate, commented on my body, commented on my abilities,' she said. That was the hardest part. 'What bothered me the most was the sexual harassment and feeling intimidated.'
Even the work she was assigned fell down gendered lines. She was given administrative tasks like making lists, taking pictures, and checking to see if others’ tasks were completed. 'They would tell me all the time, ‘Honey, stay here, this is really dangerous,’' she said. 
She also wasn’t getting the training she had come for. 'Nobody explained things to me, nobody cared whether I was learning or not,” she said. The boys, on the other hand, were invited to meetings and given in-depth explanations of how things were done. 
Valoy represents many women in her industry. The Department of Labor found that 88 percent of women in construction said they had experienced sexual harassment at work, compared to 25 percent of women in the workforce generally. And, according to NWLC, they 'are more likely to be concentrated in office positions…and least likely to be found in more labor intensive positions,' but those office positions pay less."
This situation of men sexually harassing women in order to keep construction a boys' club might help explain why more men than women are in this industry and, thus, experience both higher wages and higher workplace injuries/deaths, yeah?

And yet, what are men's rights activists doing to help stop men from harassing and excluding women from male-dominated jobs like construction?

Absolutely fucking nothing, of course.  

It's feminists who fight for an end to harassment, gender-based stereotypes, and benevolent sexism on the job that all serve to keep women out of male-dominated industries, while MRAs fight us every step of the way, thereby contributing to the very problems about which they whinge and add to their ready-made lists of "proof" that men are the ones who are really oppressed.

And really, what do MRAs even do, tangibly, to make workplaces safer for men, or anyone, really?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

"Only now that the coast is clear has the W.N.B.A. decided to publicly embrace its gay fans. The gesture deserves two slow claps, considering how long it took. The league could have done this sooner, and helped change the sports world; instead, it’s merely taking advantage of a changed world.
....In its marketing, the W.N.B.A. focused on the players’ personal lives, but only on aspects considered heterosexual, like boyfriends and weddings and babies. It alienated some core fans.
Now it wants those fans back, as well as other L.G.B.T. sports fans who haven’t yet tried the W.N.B.A. 
Sometimes it takes a while to accept your friends." 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thursday Links

Here's some good stuff I've read recently - I'm passing the links along in case others are interested and haven't read these articles yet:

  • "10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn," Soraya Chemaly: "Men interrupt women, speak over them, and discount their contributions to a discussion with surprising regularity. Here’s how women should respond: 'Stop interrupting me.' 'I just said that.' 'No explanation needed.'"
  • "We Need to Talk About This," Melissa McEwan: "I want us to talk about the real costs of being a woman who does public advocacy. I want us to acknowledge how the costs of providing a safe space is that we stand on the line and absorb massive amounts of abuse. I want us to make noise about the people who create an atmosphere in which women are discouraged from participation."
  • "NY state senator filling #March4Marriage buses without actually mentioning march itself," Jeremy Hooper: "In several emails, National Organization For Marriage president Brian Brown has proudly claimed that New York's most notoriously anti-gay (and cowboy hat–wearing) Democrat, state senator Ruben Diaz Sr., is bringing 100 buses to NOM's pro-discrimination march in D.C. (to be held June 19). Which could be true. Diaz is known to bus in crowds to NOM events.Only thing? Diaz isn't actually telling people that the buses are for NOM's anti-gay march. Instead, he's selling it as a way for people to get a free trip to the nation's capital so they can 'visit the monuments.'"  
Feel free to link to other articles in the comments.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#NotAllMen: Conservative Academic Edition

Brad Wilcox and Robin Frewell Wilson have a gross, notorious piece in the Washington Post about violence and marriage.

For some brief background on Wilcox, Sarah Posner has a round-up of some choice quotes of his promotion of traditional gender roles in marriage. And, I've previously noted his ethically-questionable involvement in the tainted Regnerus study conservative use to denigrate same-sex marriage and parenting. Meanwhile, Wilson is a conservative law professor, not a sociologist, who has also published hand-wringing pieces about "religious liberties" in the wake of same-sex marriage.

In this latest piece, Wilcox and Wison riff off the #YesAllWomen hashtag many women used in response to the UCSB shooting to communicate their experiences living in a world in which men commit the vast majority of violent crimes, threats, and acts.

Giving feeeeeeeeemales some pro Safety Tips, Wilcox and Wilson opine:
"Marriage is no panacea when it comes to male violence. But married fathers are much less likely to resort to violence than men who are not tied by marriage or biology to a female*. And, most fundamentally, for the girls and women in their lives, married fathers provide direct protection by watching out for the physical welfare of their wives and daughters, and indirect protection by increasing the odds they live in safe homes and are not exposed to men likely to pose a threat. 
So, women: if you’re the product of a good marriage, and feel safer as a consequence, lift a glass to dear old dad this Sunday."
As Echidne notes, the authors fail to acknowledge, let alone address, causality and its direction: "Which comes first, domestic violence or the dissolution of marriage (or the decision not to marry someone who is violent in the first place)?" Or, other causes: maybe violent men are less likely to marry. Maybe women who are married are less likely to report their spouse for violence than are unmarried women. Maybe the criminal justice system is more lenient on married men than unmarried men.

My point here is that we see once again how gender traditionalists like neat, easy-peasy solutions for real-world problems, starting with the original URL of this article, which barked at women to get married if they don't want to get themselves attacked. It's a worldview that accepts "females" as the victim class and "males" as the murderer-rapist-abuser class, and commands women to work within that framework to marry men, tame the "beasts," and limit our behavior and movement in the world because Men Cannot Be Trusted and, meanwhile, the low bar of human decency for men is set at "don't rape, attack, or kill someone unless you have a good enough reason" (and man oh man authority has thought of lots of ways to give men what it deems good, justifiable reason for these things, yeah?)

Meanwhile, real-worl reality has a lot going on in it that the gender traditionalist narrative doesn't account for. To them,  and we largely see this perspective in the article above, the world is divided into two classes of men: Good Protector Men and Evil Violent Men. It's a narrative that fails to recognize that some men can be protective of "their" women while violent toward others.  It fails to acknowledge that people are not binary either 100% Good or 100% Evil.

So-called "Men's Rights Activists," of course, rarely if ever take issue with this gender traditionalist worldview of men, which of course underscores that movement's true motivation: putting uppity women back in their/our place. So, on that note, I've answered my own question on my why MRAs rarely critique gender traditionalists. They're mostly on the same wavelength.

(*Note too, of course, the authors' use of "females" as a noun as though it's the proper analog to the term "men.")

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Random Thoughts

I spent a day home sick this week and watched some classic Buffy.

During this viewing, I realized that if I were a vampire in the Buffyverse, I'd invent an armor patch thingy that covers the heart that would prevent me from ever getting staked.  Are vampires kind of... dumb to not think of something like this?

Secondly, I also watched like 8 minutes of Date Movie. I turned it off after like the 14th "lol you're fat in your fat suit" joke. It's fine to be a bad movie, but to be a bad movie that's also mean takes it to a whole other shitty level.  It makes me sad that Alyson Hannigan is in crap like that.

What are you all watching, reading, or doing?  *tap tap* Is anyone out there?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times Runs, Then Apologizes for "Provocative" Anti-Trans Piece

[Content note: anti-trans bigotry]

Earlier this week, the mainstream Chicago Sun-Times published a revolting anti-trans piece about Laverne Cox and transgender individuals in general. The piece was originally published at the conservative National Review Online and was written by Kevin Williamson.

Williams has no apparent expertise in gender, sex, or biology (he's listed as a "roving correspondent" for National Review and a theater critic and adjunct professor at King's College, on Wikipedia). Yet, someone at the Sun-Times thought it would be cool to nonetheless amplify Williamson's thoughts on transgender issues, anyway, implying that he has particular authority on the matter.

In the piece, Williamson misgenders Cox throughout and in the title ("Laverne Cox is Not a Woman"), assuming an air of the "cis white man who's just tellin' it like it is" because some truths, he maybe supposes, are so self-evident they are true just because he says so.  A snippet:
"The infinite malleability of the postmodern idea of  'gender,' as opposed to the stubborn concreteness of sex, is precisely the reason the concept was invented. For all of the high-academic theory attached to the question, it is simply a mystical exercise in rearranging words to rearrange reality. Facebook now has a few score options for describing one’s gender or sex, and no doubt they will soon match the number of names for the Almighty in one of the old mystery cults. 
Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that."
It's a common way conservative, bigoted mansplainers talk about transgender people. They don't truly understand what being trans is, nor do they even try to understand, really. Indeed, their gender worldview, and the illusions of superiority in the world it grants them, often depend on them not understanding. When talking about gender issues, they often appeal to the lowest common denominator of insular self-centeredness: I only know my experience, and my experience is the sun around which all other experiences revolve, therefore experiences that differ from mine are delusional academic elitism.

In an apology, the Chicago Sun-Times acknowledges its purported reasons for elevating Williamson's voice on the matter of transgender identity. Via GLAAD, Sun-Times Editorial Page Editor Tom McNamee claimed:
"We try to present a range of views on an issue, not only those views we may agree with, but also those we don’t agree with. A recent op-ed piece we ran online that was produced by another publication initially struck as provocative."
And what ideas, exactly, did the editors think it would be great to provoke? It's not exactly rare, super insightful, or embiggening to the discourse for a cis man to tell the world that trans people are delusional and that people should stop playing along.

This idea, that we must present "all sides" of a "debate," no matter how ignorant, harmful, and uninformed, has long been repugnant to me as the worst, most general application of "tolerance." To pile on the hatred and ignorance of a marginalized group for the sake of amplifying a viewpoint that's already quite common? Like, how lucky for the Sun-Times decision-makers that what they perceive as "provocative" is, to many trans people, an incredibly dehumanizing narrative they encounter on probably a near-daily basis.

And, as far as presenting a "range of views" on the issue, where then was the comment section?  The piece has since been deleted at the Sun-Times, but it seemed like an especially craven decision on the part of the Sun-Times to publish this oh-so-provocative piece online and to not allow comments, where yes, many people would likely agree with Williamson, but some trans people and allies could also at least chime in and present their own "provocative" "range of views" on the issue.

As traditional media wrestle with changes in discourse brought about by Internet, those who get to pick which voices are amplified in major media sources, are increasingly going to find themselves held accountable by the blogosphere and social media.  Especially when those decisions are seemingly made by insular, clueless members of privileged classes who think the plebians need to be more exposed to bigotry or, say, "a range of views."

Where 25 years ago, readers would have to endure an article like Williamson's and physically write a letter to the editor in response and hope that it was picked to be published, people on Internet and social media created an almost immediate shitstorm about the Sun-Time's decision to promote Williamson's piece.

In a matter of days, the Sun-Times issued an apology for promoting content that omitted facts and that was purportedly inconsistent with their publication standards. Which, seems like something of a win. although it seems Ms. Cox is still owed an explicit apology.

So, you know, cue Team Bigotry's cry of persecution in 3-2-1....

Indeed, Kevin Williamson's response to having the Sun-Times remove his piece is just as childish and awful as you would expect, beginning with his title: "Speaking of Men Who Have Had Their Testicles Removed." His point is basically that the guy at the Sun-Times who issued the apology is a faggy dick-less/ball-less being.

So yeah, whoever made the call to elevate Williamson's voice at the Sun-Times sure did a heckuva job. It's actually kind of impressive that the Sun-Times has pissed off both bigots and progressives in one fell swoop. I hope being "provocative" was worth it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Feminist Critic" Concerned About Unfair Portrayal of MRAs in Wake of UCSB

[Content note: Misogyny, rape apologia]

Over at anti-feminist site "Feminist Critics*," ballgame notes how "stymied" he's been trying to respond to the, in his words, "torrent of anti-MRA smears created to take advantage of the horrific murders by Elliot Rodger in California."

Wow, that's quite the characterization of anti-MRA writing, yeah?

I mean, what a truly profound lack of understanding ballgame shows regarding the motivations of people writing about MRAs in the wake of this tragedy. What an unfortunate, unfair, and automatic attribution of bad faith he grants to feminists and critics of MRAs.  In his view, it's as though the only reason people are critiquing MRAs is not because MRAs say incredibly horrible things about women but because people just want to "smear" MRAs for no reason at all!  As though most people see this event as, say, their Big Chance to undeservedly tarnish the image of the poor innocent MRA movement.


MRAs, with their own words, smear themselves.

By quoting exactly what they say, in context, MRAs discredit their own credibility.  To highlight their repulsive views is to not "take advantage" of a killer's actions, it's largely to ask, "Now? Now will people listen to us? These people are scary, misogynistic, and aggressive. Something like this will happen again, and all the signs are right there, on the Internet, in the manosphere, today."

Here, I will once again note that one of the manosphere's most prominent, adored, and popular voices, Paul Elam, has said that today's women are "shallow, self-serving wastes of human existence—parasites—semi-human black holes that suck resources and goodwill out of men and squander them on the mindless pursuit of vanity." Opining on women and rape, he has also written (link to Rational Wiki, rather than Elam's site, so as not to drive traffic to it):
"And all the outraged PC demands to get huffy and point out how nothing justifies or excuses rape won’t change the fact that there are a lot of women who get pummeled and pumped because they are stupid (and often arrogant) enough to walk though life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH – PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads."
And, thousands of men agree with him.

It is not difficult to find, at MRA and manosphere sites, messaging like that.

In contrast, ballgame has to get his microfiche out and go all the way back to 1968 to bring up Valerie Solanas in his title, "Rodger & Solanas Do Not Represent Their Gender Rights Groups," to fabricate a fictitious moral equation whereby feminists and MRAs are just two equal and opposite sides of a debate, each heaping aggression and violence in equal measures upon the other side with equal consequence in a society in which feminists kill, attack, and threaten men just as frequently as anti-feminists kill, attack, and threaten women.


Simply put, there is no major, popular feminist on the Internet today that I know of who communicates views about men that are akin to the views that major, popular MRAs like Paul Elam communicate about women.  The biggest "sin" of many of the most popular feminists actually seems to be that they/we don't center men and men's concerns - which, it seems, feels like equivalent violence to some MRAs, MRA supporters, and feminist critics. (Here, for instance, ballgame lambasts popular feminist blogger Melissa McEwan for not feeling sufficiently excited about an upcoming male-centric movie.)

So, there's that entitlement theme, again.

My advice at this point is for defensive men to take a step back, broaden their perspectives a bit, and try a bit harder to understand women's fear rather than automatically attribute critiques of MRAs to a super fun bad faith attempt to "smear" the movement.

[*I have not included a link to the site as I don't want to drive traffic to it - the name of the blog, article, and author are included within this post, and thus the piece should be easy enough to find if you're inclined.]

Is it really up to feminists to create all pushback?
Reasons given for inaction of men's rights movement

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This Is What Dehumanization Looks Like

I saw a popular anti-LGBT writer approvingly promote this silly, self-important, fear-mongering piece by Michael Hanby.

The TL;DR version of this post is that, like many anti-equality pieces, this one's an academic version of National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage's (NOM) ridiculous "A Gathering Storm" ad about the grave harms we are to experience as a society that accepts same-sex marriage.

You can tell right off because Hanby, or his editor, calls his piece "The Brave New World of Same-Sex Marriage."

Which, first off, as an avid sci-fi fan, I find that many conservatives love using Huxley's work as their handy, super profound dystopian reference, no matter how tiny a connection exists between that and whatever it is they happen to be writing about.  It's as though some people are like, "Stuff I think is scary is happening now, and scary future stuff happened in Brave New World too, therefore it's exactly the same."

Hanby starts with some... fun premises:
"Just as feminism has as its practical outworking, if not its theoretical core, the technological conquest of the female body—'biology is not destiny,' so the saying goes—so too same-sex marriage has as its condition of possibility the technological mastery of procreation, without which it would have remained permanently unimaginable."
Hanby's reference to feminism here may seem irrelevant but, for many, being anti-feminist and being anti-LGBT go hand in hand.  Poke a homobigot even a little bit, get them into a conversation about gender, and yep, as NOM claims:
"Men and women make unique, irreplaceable, contributions to parenting. Both genders are needed for human flourishing."
Both progressive feminism and pro-LGBT advocacy threaten this allegedly "natural" world in which all of humanity can be simply and easily reduced to two,and only two, gender complementarist and essential roles (with men on top, of course).  Gay people, trans people, "masculine" women, "feminine" men, intersex individuals, bisexuals - we're all aberrations that, to those invested in "natural law," don't even cause a blip on the radar of what it means to be a true, authentic human being.  Our experiences that deviate from the "nuclear family norm" are, to them, artificial social constructs.

In addition to Hanby's bizarre (macho?) framing of feminism as "the technological conquest of the female body," he makes quite the claim in concluding, without argument, that same-sex marriage would have been unimagineable without the existence of alternative reproductive technologies. That claim, to me, belies an ignorance of the most prominent reasons put forth for same-sex marriage as well as the reasons for its increasing acceptance - none of which are dependent upon the argument, "Well, same-sex couples can use egg/sperm donors, therefore, they too can get married."

Hanby continues:
"To accept same-sex unions as ‘marriage’ is thus to commit officially to the proposition that there is no meaningful difference between a married man and woman conceiving a child naturally, two women conceiving a child with the aid of donor semen and IVF, or two men employing a surrogate to have a child together, though in the latter cases only one of the legally recognized parents can (presently) contribute to the child’s hereditary endowment and hope for a family resemblance."
Gee, something is missing from this picture. Notice how in all this talk of the brave new world of reproductive technologies, Hanby fails to mention that male-female couples also use these practices.  In his brave new world, and even his current world, it's as though all male-female couples conceive children "naturally" while only same-sex couples use alternative reproductive technologies to have children.  Adoption doesn't occur either, apparently.

These omissions, these double-standards in which a practice is highlighted and denigrated when same-sex couples do it and invisibilized when heterosexuals do it are, to me, always a sure sign of the dreaded b-word. And, indeed, he really gets worked up a bit later, culminating in his overall thesis:
"Underlying the technological conquest of human biology, whether in its gay or feminist form, is a dualism which bi-furcates the person into a meaningless mechanical body made of malleable ‘stuff’ and the affective or technological will that presides over it. 
The person as an integrated whole falls through the chasm. This is the foundation of the now orthodox distinction between ‘sex’ which is ‘merely biological’ and ‘gender’ which is socially constructed, as well as the increasingly pervasive (and relentlessly promoted) idea that freedom means our self-creation of both. Technological dominance over procreation imposes this bi-furcated anthropology upon parents and children alike, and codifying it implicitly makes this anthropology the law of the land. 
To declare same-sex unions marriage and their technological ‘reproduction’ normative is essentially to reconceive the child not as a person but as an artifact. It is to deny that he [sic] is his [sic] own being with inviolable dignity who cannot be manipulated or controlled; since it was a process of manipulation and control that brought him [sic] into being in the first place. 
To declare same-sex unions marriage and their technological ‘reproduction’ normative is essentially to reconceive the child not as a person but as an artifact. It is to deny that he [sic] is essentially the natural fruit of a love inscribed into his [sic] parents’ flesh; since love is now a mere emotion with no bearing on the meaning of the body, which has been relegated to the sub-personal realm of ‘mere biology.’" 
Lot going on there, right?

In a nutshell, his main argument is that same-sex marriage results in the normalization of alternative reproductive technology, which results in the dehumanization of all of us in society. It is the academic speak covering a simplistic argument that, to me, is most infuriating: The notion that it is uniquely same-sex marriage that is the harbinger of this brave new world of, quoting Hanby again, "embryo selection, cryopreservation, ‘baby farming,’ three-parent ‘composite’ babies, defective embryos and chimeras manufactured for research."

Now, as some of you might know, I used to guest write at the conservative-leaning Family Scholars Blog, where I was a progressive lesbian feminist blogger in the midst of those who held views much like Hanby's. I've said it there and I'll say it now, the ethics of ART ought to be explored, debated and discussed (and often are).

However, the biggest failing of many anti-ART voices who are also anti-LGBT is the coupling of their concerns about ART with the almost single-minded blame for all ills associated with it on same-sex couples, same-sex marriage, and (as in Hanby's case) feminism.  I once asked a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage and ART how many same-sex couples used ART compared to heterosexual couples and she honestly couldn't tell me. Yet, from her writing and advocacy, one would be led to assume that she had solid information that millions of same-sex couples, and same-sex couples only, were using these technologies.

To single out same-sex couples and same-sex marriage as harbingers of the dehumanization of human beings is, frankly, sickly, and absurdly, dehumanizing.  But, of course, dehumanization is a key feature of gender complementarist theories and practices that push people into simple "pink" and "blue" categories, that ignore and invisibilize actual human experience and difference while masquerading as absolute truth "natural law" about humanity.