Friday, October 11, 2013

Being a Young Single Lesbian

For me, often meant feeling elated when famous women I admired turned out to be lesbians too, followed almost immediately by the disappointed realization that I still had no chance with them, ever.

All joking aside - after all, I am now older, wiser, and happily civil union'ed - congratulations to the couple!


Women's World Cup Final Sets Records

League Shuts Down Abby Wambach's Team

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Regnerus Promoting New Family Study

Mark Regnerus has taken to Internet to promote another study that purportedly proves the popular anti-equality platitude that "a married mom and dad really do matter," a platitude that's supposed to imply that therefore same-sex couples should not raise children or have equal marriage rights.

Regnerus' promotion of this study is posted at  the Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse blog, where Regnerus has posted his anti-equality opinions previously.

The Witherspoon Institute is the organization that recruited and funded Regnerus to run his widely-critiqued New Family Structures Study and that, contrary to claims otherwise, was later revealed to have played a role in the study's design and timing.

This past summer, Mark Regnerus spoke at The Ruth Institute's "It Takes a Family" conference.

The study Regnerus is promoting is by Douglas Allen, who sits on the board of the Ruth Institute (tagline: "One Man One Woman For Life").

Douglas Allen has also spoken at the anti-equality National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) conference in 2012, where he opined that women's menstrual cycles make lesbian relationships particularly unstable.

This week, the National Organization for Marriage has been promoting Allen's study, as well as Regnerus' promotion of the study.

And just so you know, it's the homosexualists who are alleged to have the coordinated agenda. Heh.

I will be posting my full review of the study shortly to see the extent to which these folks have or have not fairly represented it thus far.


Journal Audit Finds Severe Flaws in Regnerus Study

Scholars Critique Regnerus Study

Bryan Fischer: Regnerus Shows that "Underground Railroad" Needed to Rescue Kids in Gay Families

American College of Pediatricians Misuses Regnerus Study in Amicus Brief

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scalia In a Nutshell

I've spared all of you the trouble of reading New York Magazine Jennifer Senior's recent interview with conservative US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Here's my summary of important tidbits:

His primary source of news is "talk guys" on the radio, he literally believes in the entity called "the Devil," he especially disapproves of "ladies" saying the "f word," he finds the "soup Nazi" thing in Seinfeld "hilarious," and he suspects he has some "homosexual friends" but they haven't, for some reason, come out to him yet even though he doesn't hate gays or anything.   

He also proclaims, with an air of intellectual superiority, that "words mean things" within the same conversation in which he uses only the masculine pronoun to refer to all attorneys, law students, and law clerks. And, finally, he definitely doesn't care about his potential legacy as being on the wrong side of history. He has Absolute Truth on his side.

What a neat guy.

A few months ago, I noted my glee with how the anti-gay right's attempts to sway the Supreme Court via the much-critiqued Regnerus study didn't work all that well in this past summer's DOMA case.

As I read the above interview with Scalia and his attendant affirmation of conservative dude culture, and reflected upon his especially bitter, scathing dissent in Windsor, I once again admit that I am glad - like really glad and probably more glad than I politely should be - that this guy lost a case he seems to have cared greatly about.  That likely means something importantly progressive actually did happen.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Angry, Concerned Student is Angry, Concerned

[Content note: trans bigotry]

You might have seen some conservative "anti-PC" types enthusiastically praising University of Wisconsin grad student Jason Morgan for his rant against, basically, political correctness gone awry.

His letter to the University's Graduate Director, which he (in true conservative outrage, shit-stirring style!) also sent to various news outlets, seems to have been inspired by the University's mandated diversity trainings that teaching assistants have to attend.

So, you can imagine it already.

In addition to railing against rampant leftism and expressing outrage at the trainings' "overriding presumption" that attendees might be racist, he takes particular issue with the sessions on transgender issues.  He writes:

"At the end of yesterday’s diversity 're-education,' we were told that our next session would include a presentation on 'Trans Students'. At that coming session, according to the handout we were given, we will learn how to let students ‘choose their own pronouns’, how to correct other students who mistakenly use the wrong pronouns, and how to ask people which pronouns they prefer ('I use the pronouns he/him/his. I want to make sure I address you correctly. What pronouns do you use?'). Also on the agenda for next week are 'important trans struggles, as well as those of the intersexed and other gender-variant communities,' 'stand[ing] up to the rules of gender,' and a very helpful glossary of related terms and acronyms, to wit: 'Trans': for those who 'identify along the gender-variant spectrum,' and 'Genderqueer': 'for those who consider their gender outside the binary gender system'. I hasten to reiterate that I am quoting from diversity handouts; I am not making any of this up. 

.... It is an honor and a great joy to teach students the history of Japan. I take my job very seriously, and I look forward to coming to work each day. 

It is most certainly not my job, though, to cheer along anyone, student or otherwise, in their psychological confusion. I am not in graduate school to learn how to encourage poor souls in their sexual experimentation, nor am I receiving generous stipends of taxpayer monies from the good people of the Great State of Wisconsin to play along with fantasies or accommodate public cross-dressing.

In this instance, while Morgan may get lots of standing o's from like-minded, close-minded types, he actually, quite sadly, demonstrates pretty well why such trainings are and should be required for public employees who have to interact with a diverse student body.

I mean, the very way he discusses gender issues is largely an ignorant mischaracterization. Referring to transgender and/or genderqueer people (it's not super clear how or whether he even distinguishes the two) as "poor souls" who engage in "cross-dressing" "fantasies" does a pretty good job of diminishing his credibility as an informed academic who is so enlighteningly-above needing to learn more about gender.

Wanna-be intellectual freedom crusaders further lose credibility when they treat discussions that in any way diverge from their own provincial "Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"  thinking about gender as so self-evidently absurd that they don't even require rebuttal.  With his sneering "I am not making any of this up," it's as though he's confronted, for perhaps the very first time, thoughts about gender that differ from his own and that, mistakenly, everyone else is a n00b to gender issues as well.

Yet, transgender people actually exist in the real world even if Jason Morgan doesn't know, doesn't want to know, or doesn't think he knows, any!

Genderqueer people actually exist in the real world even if Jason Morgan doesn't know, doesn't want to know, or doesn't think he knows, any!

Most people want to be addressed by the gender pronouns they identify with and it's generally good manners to call people what they want to be called.

So, what's the fucking problem, dude?

The other day, I read a piece at Salon about (other easily-offended white people might want to close their eyes now) white privilege in the debate about naming mascots after Native American caricatures. In it, Steven Salaita (or his editor) notes in the sub-title that there's "nothing scarier than a nervous white man."


The way that white people angrily defend certain mascots of their ballsports' teams seems similar to the way that some people angrily defend their "intellectual freedom" to remain ignorant and close-minded about diversity and transgender issues. To be a white cisgender man in the US used to be something very, extremely important compared to being other types of people. At least, that seems to have been the promise made to many such folks: that they were, would be, and deserved to be the real movers and shakers in the world, with other people relegated mostly to supporting, subordinate, and awestruck roles.

As white cisgender men increasingly confront the brokenness of that promise in an era of increasing civil rights and awareness, everyone else has to increasingly deal with the angry, anxious white man fallout of them periodically stamping their feet about it while other dudes cheer them on at, say, the Wall Street Journal.

Salaita continues that the perpetuation of offensive mascots are "products of an American will to name what has been conquered and to maintain power through a refusal to reconsider traditions of naming." Just as masses of white people scream, and I do mean scream, about PC gone awry in the mascot debate, cisgender people often refuse to reconsider naming transgender people what transgender people want to be named even as these cisgender people evidence not even an iota of understanding of transgender issues.

Again, I reference Morgan's "I am not making this up" snark as though he, rather than transgender people or people who study gender for a living, is the real namer of whether transgender lives are authentic or not.

Men who cheer on Morgan's rant are likely those who treat diversity training as though it viscerally pains them, and is an assault on their intellectual freedom, to be confronted with the reality that people who aren't like them both exist and do not all go waiving around "White Men Are #1" foam fingers all day long 24/7/365. From reading his letter, one might think that the diversity training is mandating that he personally clothe transgender women in poodle skirts each morning, whilst then donning pom-pons and megaphones, perhaps with the added humiliation of being forced to apply a couple of layers of mascara as well.

Yet, all he, or anyone, really has to do to be even just a halfway okay person is call someone by their preferred pronoun and not, like, physically assault someone because they're trans. And that's a pretty fucking low bar when you think about it.

His letter doesn't seek so-called intellectual freedom. It demands the power to name reality and asks the rest of us to participate in the charade of white male supremacy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Haters Next Door

I'm not surprised by this man's white supremacist views. They're shared by many, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly.

What I find interesting about the above-cited article is its framing:

"Richard Spencer sat sipping his chai latte at the Red Caboose, a train-themed coffee shop in downtown Whitefish, Mont. Clean-cut and restrained, he reminded me of a hundred outdoors-obsessed people I had known growing up here in the Flathead Valley, a resort area nestled in the shadows of Glacier National Park.

But Spencer’s tidy appearance is about more than his sense of propriety; it’s a recruitment tool. Spencer advocates for white separatism and he wants to shake his movement’s reputation for brutality and backwardness. 

'We have to look good,' Spencer said, adding that if his movement means 'being part of something that is crazed or ugly or vicious or just stupid, no one is going to want to be a part of it.' Those stereotypes of 'redneck, tattooed, illiterate, no-teeth' people, Spencer said, are blocking his progress. Organizations that monitor domestic hate groups say it’s just this unthreatening approachability that makes Spencer so insidious.

The lesson isn't just that nice-seeming people, like the good-neighborly-seeming Westboro members, can hold incredibly-problematic views and that organizations can be awful even if they aren't, say, explicitly named the Institute For Arch Villainry.  It's that those who are problematic often carefully, precisely, and mindfully cultivate an image that suggests exactly the opposite about themselves, their views, and their activity. 

They know what the stereotypes are about those who hold bigoted views and they consciously try to subvert those stereotypes. They aren't haters, they say, they just want what's best for the kinds of people who really matter.

We see this PR/image cultivation not just with racists, but with all sorts of bigots and abusers. Other examples that come to my mind, of course, are some of the professional outfits who oppose LGBT equality.

Any others?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quote of the Day

"A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to 'debate' on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science."  -Suzanne LaBarre, Popular Science, "Why We're Shutting Off Our Comments"

Here, I particularly like the image of comment sections being a "grotesque reflection" of the media culture. US media culture seems to particularly value angry, binary, and certain opinions while devaluing and even outright mocking civil, nuanced, and thoughtful discourse.  And that's certainly reflected in comment sections of, especially, large media outlets. 

I'm not sure if commenters take their cues from popular political commentators or whether political commentators take their cues from their viewers. Maybe it's both and cyclical.

Whatever the case, I'm once again reminded that comment moderation takes actual work. Actual resources have to be put into creating a forum in which thoughtful, civil conversation in which people are able to set, and must also respect, boundaries of the conversation. While some folks huff and puff about a so-called silencing effect of comment moderation, laud the purported virtues of Anything Goes Forums, and express annoyance at meta-conversations about civility, civil discourse does not actually just spontaneously happen on Internet without effort and mindfulness.

Also - as a related FYI, comment moderation is restored to its regular status here in Fannie's Room, meaning comments will appear without having to be pre-approved.