Thursday, August 20, 2015

Women Pass Ranger Program: Internet Misogynists Flip Out

Perhaps you've read about the 2 Army lieutenants who have become the first women to graduate from the US Army's Ranger program, a physically- and mentally-intense training course from which women have historically been excluded.

I've read several articles about this and have of course noted the misogynistic whinging in various comment sections.  Hilariously, the US Army has addressed some of the misogyny directly to those oh-so--courageous purveyors of misogynistic attacks on Internet.

I've noted before that those who identify with toxic masculinity define themselves largely by what they are not: women. In their minds, women and men are "opposites" in which men are supreme and women are …. not.

They take great pride in the activities which are, they claim, "inherently" "male," and if women end up engaging in these activities, these men view the activities as having become  imbued with the taint femininity.  "Women ruin everything," they bawl, as they see women too showing interest in things like sports, military, science fiction, comedy, geekdom, and other interests and activities that some men try to stake out as No Girls Allowed Land.

Thus, the comments by such men, in relation to the Rangers issue, fall into predictable categories:

  • The system was somehow rigged to help the women pass, because no woman could actually pass on the same terms as men. This claim allows the man to continue believing that there are still Important Things that men can do that women cannot (In truth, the women passed the same standards as the men); 
  • If it is admitted that the women passed on the same terms as men, their femininity is called into question by mocking their appearance and calling them "manly." While the man may concede that the woman did the thing that men do, he implies that she's not a real woman and therefore it doesn't count;
  • The man gripes about "political correctness" and "social experiments." By uttering these meaningless phrases, the man believes he can magically waive away the accomplishment as though it didn't happen and isn't a thing that exists in reality, but rather is Social Justice Warrior fabrication.
All of these attempt to preserve the man's masculine identity As A Man (and not a woman).

Although, then there's my personal favorite:

The man who was concern trolling about male Rangers having to share humvees with "menstruating females."  Dude,  I'm gonna stop you right there.  If a man isn't tough enough to be around a menstruating person, that guy probably isn't tough enough to be a fucking Army Ranger, which might also mean that the Army has bigger problems, yeah?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Equality Opponents Try to Keep Debate Alive

I haven't paid much attention to National Organization for [Male-Female] Marriage (NOM) since June's US Supreme Court marriage equality victory.

I keep the NOM blog in my newsfeed and occasionally scroll through its headlines, however.

Recently, I saw them promoting a new book by equality opponent Ryan T. Anderson, called Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom (I'm not linking to it, but it can be found easily enough). Released July 14, it's touted as the "first book to respond to" the Obergefell decision.

From its description, the point of the book seems to be to keep the marriage equality debate alive by informing people about what marriage "really" is and, of course, the threats posed to society by the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

How sad.

First and foremost, I have no idea if Anderson truly wrote the book as a "response" to the Supreme Court decision. I'll just say that whipping out a book in a mere 2 weeks seems quite fast.  How much "new ground" has been covered?  For that matter, how much new ground can even be covered in the conversation any more anywhere?

One fawning review states:
It is simply a must read all around. Anderson presents a well-researched and well-rounded argument for the continued importance of both traditional marriage and the strong protection of religious liberty. And he does all of this while being eminently respectful to those on the opposite side of the issue. Anderson’s work is the polar opposite of “hateful,” “bigoted,” or “homophobic.” It is a prime example of the Christian imperative to “speak the truth in love.”
Oh boy. Here we go again.

The notion that we, supporters of equality, just haven't listened, really really listened, to the intellectual, un-bigoted, and civil reasons for opposing equality and that if we just give it an honest-to-goodness chance always strikes me as…. really insular.  Have new arguments against equality, that no one has ever heard before, been invented in a matter of 2 weeks?

I mean, the conversation has been public and prominent, particularly since it was used as a wedge issue in the 2004 US presidential election.  The "civil" arguments generally go along these lines:

  • Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and the purpose of marriage is to unite these complementary beings;
  • Marriage is for heterosexual "responsible procreation"; 
  • Same-sex couples cannot procreate together, therefore there is no reason for them to marry;
  • Marriage was created by "God" and/or is a thing that exists in nature like, say, a flower or a tree and it's not for "man" to define and change it;
  • Calling same-sex marriage marriage devalues it for couples who are actually married;
  • Every child needs a mother and a father;
  • Same-sex marriage turns children into commodities;
  • Children raised by their married heterosexual parents do best (insert discredited study);
  • Acceptance of same-sex marriage will lead to acceptance of other forms of marriage and/or polyamorous relationships;
  • Religious people shouldn't have to "participate" in "gay marriage" by baking them cakes or taking their photos; 
  • The Gay Mob is oppressing people who don't agree with LGBT rights, therefore LGBT people should not have equal rights.
  • Religious people in general don't like living in a society knowing that LGBT people have equal rights. It is oppressive to them.

That about cover it?

Unfortunately, a key strategic failing of the movement against equality is that it allowed some of the most obviously bigoted voices - including politicians, preachers, and lay folk -  to dominate for so long, as these voices spoke to the rank bigotry of many US homophobes.  Indeed, it has been only recently, with their loss imminent, that equality opponents have toned it down and begun trying to popularize their so-called civil reasons against marriage equality, with an early apparently-earnest attempt by David Blankenhorn's 2007 publication of The Future of Marriage.

I think what equality opponents keep overlooking is that their position cannot be made prettier by painting "civil" reasons over a fundamentally uncivil proposition.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trump As a Mirror

I know that people in my social circles, most liberal and progressive, have been joking about the Republican Primary "clown car" debate last week and I agree to an extent.

But, I also think it's sad that Donald Trump, who during the debate "joked" about calling Rosie O'Donnell various misogynistic and fat-hating slurs, has been leading the polls among Republicans right now. I believe his popularity is mostly explained by him reflecting the unapologetically misogynistic, angry, and privileged petulance of (probably) millions of people.

Like conservative Supreme Court Justice Scalia, this is a man whose political popularity seems to stem from the "non-politically correct" bumper sticker "zingers" he brings to the public discourse, rather than for thoughtful examination of complex issues - a certain, "I'm just telling it like it is, folks" smugness that is neither as brave or smart as it purports to be.

We are worse off for it.

I'd also like to note that both Scalia and Trump are men (obvs) and that I often find their rhetoric to be highly emotional, snarky, and devoid of intellectual reasoning - a charge often leveled at women.

Now, imagine the reverse of Trump: a zinger-throwing, non-conventionally-attractive, angry, uncivil, misandrist woman polling at 25% of Democrat voters.  An interesting thought experiment only because it is so obviously unrealistic, which therefore illustrates the male privilege and misogyny alive and well in US culture.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Quote of the Century

[Content note: racism]

“I’ve never had a reason to go to [a Ku Klux Klan rally]. But they take [the Confederate flag] away and holler that we’re the racists, so, yeah, I’m here.” -attendee at recent KKK protest in South Carolina, via The New York Times

The man's suggestion here is that he has been unfairly "hollered at" that he's racist.

That, folks, is what racism in the US looks like:

1) Being thought of as racist is, to some white people, even more offensive than being so racist that one attends a rally in support of the KKK; and

2) Even attending a rally in support of the KKK isn't enough for some people to identify themselves as holding beliefs that might in some way be racist.

If you read the entire article, you might also notice that it contains a fair amount of both sides are just as bad framing of the Black Panthers and the KKK, both of which were in attendance:
"The [crowd] chanted — or at least heard — volleys of incendiary speech and shouts of “white power!” and “black power!” 
Bystanders watched people wave flags celebrating Pan-Africanism, the Confederacy and the Nazi Party. And they watched as black demonstrators raised clenched fists, and white demonstrators performed Nazi salutes."
Setting the stage for this comment:
“We’re not allowed to have this as a heritage,” Jerry Anderson, a 49-year-old white man who drove here from northwest Georgia, said as he gestured toward another man’s Confederate battle flag. “But they can fly theirs, and they can say what they want to, and it’s O.K.”
By ignoring historical context and structural power inequalities, a white man implies that a private group of citizens flying a flag is equal to a state flying one at its state buildings and that therefore, by not allowing the state to fly "his" flag, he is the real victim of injustice and inequality.

This line of thinking is why so many white people and others with privilege end up thinking others groups have "special privileges" and "advantages."

On Bigotry, Again
On Hatred and Bigotry, Again

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Power of the Opinion

Well, Team Inequality is being reasonable about things:
"One can certainly understand the joy that LGBT Americans and their supporters feel today. But orthodox Christians must understand that things are going to get much more difficult for us. We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution. And we are going to have to change the way we practice our faith and teach it to our children, to build resilient communities."
That's conservative Rod Dreher, blogging at Time.

Of course, at his regular domain over at The American Conservative, he regularly expresses his persecution complex much more dramatically, as well as his vitriol toward progressivism and, especially, trans people. That is, when he isn't pitching one of his books.

Nonetheless, I've been reading these musings by opponents of equality with some fascination.  Scalia, in one of the most petulant, infantile, and unprofessional dissents I've ever read, naturally set the tone for conservative man-babies everywhere. The outrage, the persecution complex, the calls to revolution. None of it surprises me - remember, these are the people we've tried, with varying degrees of success, to reach for the past few decades. I know their narrative framings well.

As a practical consequence, I doubt marriage equality would have much impact on Dreher or many conservatives, if they simply didn't know that it was legal. Same-sex couples would get married, all of Dreher's Gay Friends wouldn't invite him to their weddings anyway, and none of it would have any bearing on his or his family's daily life.

The chief harm to opponents of equality is not that it impacts their own rights or liberty, but that the state no longer officially agrees with their moral and/or religious views about the matter. The state not being a Christian one is framed, not as neutrality, but as aggression and unfairness. At the same time, by harping on a small handful of instances of equality opponents losing their job, or their bakery,  or their flower shop, because of, however tangentially, their opposition to equality, the situation is further exaggerated as though every opponent of equality is at dire risk of being imminently sent to a concentration camp.

It is fear manufactured by some of those in the most privileged classes in the US- cushy white heterosexual men who get paid to write blogs and books for a living about the very culture wars they are, via their writing, complicit in perpetuating.

This talk of revolution and exile, because they, this time, didn't get their way on an issue that doesn't really impact them but so intimately impacts others is the blustering of former overlords being brought down a notch, with the rest of us who have long accepted that we sometimes don't get our way and that's part of the political and legal process in the US. Yet, many equality opponents, long our tormentors, speak of persecution as though they have invented the suffering of it, when the reality is that they have long inflicted it upon us - the non-religious, the gender nonconforming, the LGBT - and would continue to do so if granted the power.

Of course, these loser blusterings are likely not intended to placate the masses, or least of all to appeal to pro-equality folks. I've seen precious little concession that we have had benign motives for being for same-sex marriage in the first place.

And so. Now that we have won, can I maybe forgive anti-equality folks for their tireless advocacy against my dignity and equality, even if they haven't really apologized and still frame themselves as victims? It may be too soon for that for me, friends. Yet, with the weight of the Supreme Court majority backing me up, I can now care less about these anti-equality voices than I used to.

For me, there's peace in that.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thoughts on Marriage Equality Victory!

Holy shit!
"The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a mar- riage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawful- ly licensed and performed out-of-State." (Full decision, here, in PDF)
When I started Fannie's Room about 8 years ago, I more frequently wrote about marriage equality, regularly interacting with and, yes, battling it out with opponents of equality here and elsewhere on Internet. I sometimes wonder what various cast of characters are up to these days, as I've seen many anti-LGBT blogs come and go during this time: the various Digital Network Army blog group that was supposedly a "grassroots" blogging network dedicated to opposing marriage equality; the hateful little Opine Editorials; the Family Scholars Blog, where I used to guest blog until David Blankenhorn stopped opposing equality and the blog was later shut down.

Today feels good.

In 2008, when Proposition 8 eliminated the right for same-sex couples to marry in California, it felt devastating.  Likewise, I remember the couple dozen or so states that passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage between 2000 and 2008, most of which had implicit or explicit support from, at the time, President George W. Bush.

I'm grateful for the sway in public opinion, and for the efforts of so many allies and advocates, that has occurred just in my lifetime.  In many ways, I think one of the great successes of the movement was to demonstrate the humanity of gay men and lesbians, work that is not as advanced and must continue for bisexual and trans people.

In my opinion, the anti-gay movement's great failing has been, actually, their insistence on acting like bigots while manufacturing outrage at being called bigots - a tactic that exposed them as both hateful and not credible narrators of reality.

I know there is still so much social justice work to be done, but today - hell, maybe all weekend! - I'm just going to be happy.

Oh yeah, and I'm once again feeling some big-time schadenfreude that the discredited Regnerus study on parenting did not sway the biggest court decisions on marriage, even though public records show it was released precisely to do so.

Anyway, anybody getting hitched?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Workplace Rule #3: White Male Privilege Is Real, and Yet Denied Against All Evidence

Many readers here already understand this at a deep, experiential level, but Workplace Rule #3 in my ongoing series is this:
Many people, across workplace sector, actually, really, genuinely do think that white men are automatically more competent at things than women and people of color, even if they insist they do not hold this belief and that they have not benefitted from this pervasive belief.
In addition to many people harboring racist and sexist opinions they are aware of, this one's also about implicit bias - those racist, sexist, other-ist beliefs we hold that we are not aware of.


Imagine being around the table with several other people and a hiring manager trying to fill a high-level open position. The hiring manager wants to hire a white man that he knows, without posting the job or even interviewing any other candidate. The white man to be hired, from his resume, seems qualified, but the rest of the group suggests that the hiring process be opened to others…

…and also recommends that people of color should be actively encouraged to apply.

That part after the ellipses? That's where I think many with implicit biases completely shut down. In the case of this hiring manager, when he heard "people of color" he reflexively heard "people who could never be more qualified than my white guy friend." I'm not even psychic there. I just know that was the hiring manager's thought process because that's what he literally said, out loud, with other people around (all white tho). Like, the hiring manager just though he knew, without even trying to find out, that no person of color would be more qualified for the position than a man who was, in my opinion, just marginally qualified.

Not surprisingly, and against the group's recommendation, White Guy Friend gets hired.  A few months after he's hired, another staff member suggested that his opinion seemed to be coming from a position of white male privilege, and White Guy Friend flips the fuck out, arguing that the phrase "white male privilege" was racist and sexist against him, because we don't know his background and he's earned everything in life.

That sounds completely like a made-up story, but I shit you not, folks, it's true.

And, I don't think experiences like that are uncommon. Multiply instances like these by a thousand, a hundred thousand, and we end up with masses of white men who obtain good jobs because of their white male status who nonetheless believe they got there based solely on their own merit and competence.

In this case, the hiring manager regularly gives lip services to issues of racial (and gender) disparities and would be aghast at the merest suggestion that he held racist views, even as racist statements come out of his mouth.

So too, do people like White Guy Friend deny, and act appalled at, any suggestion that they got to where they are in their professional lives because they are a white guy friend of another white guy friend in a high place. This is the case even when a person literally got his job because of the racist belief that he was automatically more qualified for a position than every single person of color in the entire world.

The lesson here is this. When I see instances like this, in which a white man was such an obvious and explicit beneficiary of white male privilege and yet that white male privilege was still vehemently denied, I know for damn sure it's going on in more subtle ways that are even less visible to those who regularly benefit from such privilege.

I'm certainly not the first to say this, but privilege is so often invisible to those who have it.  People with privilege, like White Guy Friend, are the proverbial people who started life on third base and think they got there by hitting a triple.

As for solutions, we all (especially people with privilege) need to be vigilant of implicit biases we might be harboring ourselves so we aren't contributing to the problem.  Finding trusted allies to talk about this stuff with in the workplace can help people feel less isolated and helpless.  Or, you know, write blog posts about it so you're not letting it sit inside you, eating away at your very soul of being.

What else?