Gender & Sexuality

Are We Equal Yet?

Ladies, we’ve had fun this year, haven’t we? Komen defunding Planned Parenthood sure made PP’s contributions zoom up, and Komen’s zoom down. The Republicans' jaw-dropping attack on contraception has given Obama an absurd lead among women. Katie Roiphe—yes, she who believes that date rape is nothing more than rough sex—has bravely decided that we’re so tired of being in charge, of our success, working gals all wanna be whipped. ( Sigh . Somebody tell dominatrixes, who are making a mint off the high-powered men who really are in charge and do long to be whipped, or so I’ve been told by insider sources). It’s The End of Men! Women are The Richer Sex ! Yeah, right. Sorry to be Eeyore yet again, but as feminist blogger, economist, and minor goddess Echidne of the Snakes puts it , “You get to be the richer sex by earning less, on average, than the other sex earns, you know. A well-known factoid.” Here’s the reality: Today is Equal Pay Day —the day that marks how many more days an average...

Even Romney's Donors Support Same-Sex Marriage

(Flickr/Datchler)
The prolonged Republican primary forced Mitt Romney to take stances on a host of controversial issues to win the allegiance of conservative voters. That could be alienating now that he is moving to the general election. His opposition to reproductive rights, harsh tone on immigration, and deference to Paul Ryan's budget have been the centerpiece of the campaign so far; he has also turned against gay rights, a move that puts Romney out of touch from the increasing majority of Americans who favor same-sex marriage. During debates Romney tried to cast himself as nondiscriminatory in his interactions with LBGT individuals but settled on a hardline opposition to same-sex marriage. "From the very beginning in 1994, I said to the gay community, I do not favor same-sex marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage and that has been my view," Romney said in January. He reiterated that stance in February, disparaging a court's decision to overturn Proposition 8. "I believe marriage is between a man and...

Earth to Ann Romney: The Mommy Wars Are Over

When Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney never worked a day in her life, the comment was at first touted as an enormous misstep, a jab at mothers, a slip of the lip that could sink Obama's post-contraception-scuffle 19-point lead among women. Do you see it? All I've seen is a little scuffling among pundits who are competing to say that either, a) it's true that Ann Romney has no idea what economic insecurity feels like, or b) Hilary Rosen is an elitist lezzie , or some combination thereof. But you know what? I think the "mommy wars"—which, as I wrote a few years ago, never really existed in the first place, except as a media creation—are over. Most women have to work for their families to stay in the middle class. The situation is impossible for all of us, whether we're working in an office or working at home or taking a few years out of the workforce to manage the house and children and then find it difficult to get back in at a reasonable-enough wage to ensure a decent Social Security...

What Does an Abortionist Look Like?

(AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Joe Mahoney)
She’s a single, unemployed mother with three children who finds out that she’s pregnant—just after the father has been sent to prison. She says she is distraught at the idea of hurting her kids by adding another child to the family, giving each of them less money, time, and attention, dragging them further into poverty. But she lives in rural southeastern Idaho, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the nearest clinic in Salt Lake City—and getting an abortion would require two round trips there, because of the mandatory waiting period. So she takes RU-486, ordered online, self-supervised. She freaks out at the fetus’s size, stashes it on her back porch, tells a friend, and gets reported to the police. And, is promptly arrested for inducing her own abortion. To put it mildly, Jennie Linn McCormack doesn’t sound like the world’s most responsible person—except that she apparently had the good sense to realize she was not going to be a good parent to another child. I haven’t interviewed her...

Was Adrienne Rich Anti-Trans?

By failing to acknowledge the late author's views on womanhood, feminists risk writing trans people out of the movement.

(Flickr/PhotoComiX)
In the last few weeks, many obituaries have praised the revolutionary poet and feminist theorist Adrienne Rich. While these homages are well deserved, what has been largely ignored in considering the legacy of Rich is her history of transphobia. With the exception of a small group of critics, Rich’s ideas about trans identity—and trans women in particular—have gone unscrutinized. It’s indicative of the larger inability within the feminist movement to recognize trans voices. Rich was a tremendous supporter of Janice G. Raymond, author of The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male . Raymond even cites Rich in a viciously transphobic chapter, “Sappho by Surgery,” in which Raymond argues that biological sex is the same as gender ( i.e. , if someone is born with female body parts, they are always a woman). Raymond also suggests that men who go through sex-reassignment surgery are not real women but deviant men who use female bodies to enter female spaces. As a result, they are...

November Dreaming

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
I’ve been noticing that, since January, the Obama administration has kicked up its attentions to the LGBT communities, announcing one small regulatory change or conference after another. But they’re not delivering the bigger changes that LGBT groups have been agitating for. I’ve been assuming that the goal is to boost turnout in November. Will it work? What kind of small change am I talking about? Well, there’s the White House LGBT conference series. HHS, DOJ, HUD, even the CIA—they’re all putting on some show or other. March saw a Detroit conference on LGBT housing and homelessness , where HUD Secretary Donovan announced new nondiscrimination rules for public housing and mortgage financing, on both sexual orientation or gender identity. No kicking you out of the projects or your Section 8 apartment because you turn out to be queer; no refusing to give you a mortgage because your birth sex is still visible while you’re transitioning. All good news. And soon, the White House will hold...

Approaching Peak Bitch on Television

TV is overrun with unflattering portrayals of women—where's the uproar?

AP Photo
The new TV series GCB —originally titled Good Christian Bitches after the book of the same name—premiered last month on ABC. Don’t Trust the B–– in Apt. 23 will premiere on the same network April 11. Can you imagine a network using “the N word” in a show title? Don’t trust the N-word in Apt. 23 . That won’t happen, but between 1998 and 2007, the use of the word “bitch,” on television tripled , from 431 uses on 103 prime-time episodes in 1998 to 1, 277 uses on 685 shows in 2007. I don’t have the figures for 2012, but I’d be willing to bet that this latest development means our culture is even more comfortable with the term. If you’re about to tell me that bitch is a power term, take a look at what Merriam Webster has to say about it. Definition of BITCH 1 : the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals 2 a : a lewd or immoral woman b : a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse 3 : something that is extremely difficult,...

Romney Tries to Master His Problem With Women

(Flickr/Shannon Hurst Lane)
A minor kerfuffle emerged among the political chattering class yesterday over RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' statement that the allegations that his party is waging a war on women were as fictitious as a war on caterpillars. Democrats blasted out press releases, falsely indicating that Priebus had equated women's issues with insect issues, misconstruing an awkward metaphor. Yet the substance of what Priebus claimed was objectionable. The GOP's war on women didn't just spring from liberals' imaginations. It developed when the party decided to turn reproductive rights into a contentious issue, proposing bills in Congress that would have allowed any employer to refrain from providing women with birth control, Mitt Romney declaring his intention to ruin Planned Parenthood, and the tepid response to Rush Limbaugh's offensive descriptions of Sandra Fluke. That disdain for women has been born out in polls; Romney, for example, now trails Obama by 18 percent among women. I might be reading too...

You're Gonna Make It After All

The 20th century's most important hat toss.
The first grownup television show I can remember watching as a wee pup in the 1970s was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a favorite of my mother's (and millions of other women's). It was pretty revolutionary for its time, a show built around a single working woman who was uncertain of herself and vulnerable (and the victim of constant casual sexism), but also smart, competent, and determined to be successful in a world ruled by men. It made Moore probably the central cultural icon of the feminist movement's key period. The show ended its run in 1977, but it was no surprise when Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign in 1980 recruited Moore to encourage women to vote for Carter. Here's the ad she did: If Moore was the central cultural feminist icon of the 1970s, the central political/activist icon was Gloria Steinem, who is still going strong 40 years after she co-founded Ms. magazine. And she's now doing ads for Barack Obama. As Ari Melber observed , the Obama campaign on YouTube is...

Even More Dems Support Marriage Equality

(Flickr/Center for American Progress)
By this point, support for same-sex marriage isn't much of a question in Democratic politics. A Gallup poll from last May found that 69 percent of Democrats support marriage equality, a number that has probably only increased over the intervening year. Some of the hotshot young Democrats eying 2016—most notably Governors Andrew Cuomo and Martin O'Malley—have passed same-sex marriage bills in their states and tout them as major accomplishments. Now, a collection of former Democratic National Committee chairs has endorsed adding support for same-sex marriage to the party's platform. Per Huffington Post : "We are proud that the Democratic Party fights for working families, economic justice, and equal opportunity for all," said Howard Dean, Donald Fowler, Steve Grossman and David Wilhelm in a joint statement. "Times change but our principles must always remain strong. That is why, as former chairs of the Democratic National Committee, we stand with Freedom to Marry, 22 Democratic senators...

Don't Blame the National Organization for Marriage

The group's race-baiting tactics only work if the gay and African American communities let them.

(Flickr/ Lost Albatross)
In case anyone thought the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was around to promote racial harmony, unsealed strategy memos, recently released as part of a court case, show that this is the last thing on the group's mind. Since 2009, NOM has tried to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks" by publicizing prominent black leaders' opposition to marriage equality and goading members of the gay community into denouncing them as "bigots." NOM also sought to "interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity" and "identify glamorous young Latino and Latina leaders, especially artists, actors, musicians, athletes, writers and other celebrities willing to stand for marriage." The goal: to incite resentment between key Democratic constituencies in order to make supporting marriage equality toxic for politicians. For any political organization, having the cold political calculus of its leaders exposed is unseemly, and many gay-rights...

In New York, a Bipartisan Call for Reproductive Rights

(Flickr/M. Markus)
A few weeks ago, Teresa Sayward did the unthinkable. The New York state Republican assembly woman told a state news program that she'd consider voting for Obama. "I really, truly think that the candidates that are out there today for the Republican side would take women back decades," she said on Capitol Tonight. Apparently, she's not the only one worried about her party's direction on women's health. A new story from North Country Public Radio highlights Sayward and fellow Republican Janet Duprey, who are both supporting the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify access to abortion and contraception. Sayward is one of the co-sponsors. In the segment, Duprey spoke out about her own commitment to women's health. She noted her own adolescence in the early '60s, when women and girls had few options. "We can never return to that era," she told the radio station. "We absolutely cannot." As the Prospect 's Jamelle Bouie noted Monday, the GOP's efforts to restrict access to...

How Much Longer Until I’m Equal?

(Flickr/Zolk)
Is there an LGBT legal organization that hasn’t filed a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act? Yesterday, Immigration Equality got on the bus , with a lawsuit challenging DOMA’s Section 3 (which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages) because it prevents American citizens from sponsoring their same-sex spouses for green cards. When my cousin Laura married a Dutchman, Erik, in a beautiful ceremony at the UN, no one worried that they wouldn’t be able to live together here; of course she’d be able to get him a visa to stay, even if he lost his job. But had she married a Dutch woman, Erika, the visa application would be rejected on its face—even though, in both New York and the Netherlands, the marriage was equally valid. That distinction is what the IE lawsuit is challenging. The New York Times has some nice coverage of the details. Not being able to live in the same country as your beloved spouse: that’s a large and painful cost. (Here’s the cost of DOMA to...

Judging With Double Standards

Wikimedia commons
Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito had virtually identical formal credentials—Princeton undergrads, Yale Law School, long careers on the federal bench. But Alito was treated with great deference by the press, and even opponents of his nomination based their arguments on his consistently reactionary judicial philosophy rather than suggesting that he wasn't "qualified." Sotomayor, conversely, was subject to repeated arguments that she lacked the intellectual abilities to serve on the Supreme Court. In a particular low point, immediately before Sotomayor's nomination The New Republic 's Jeffrey Rosen published a disgraceful article full of anonymous critics engaging in sexist attacks on Sotomayor that can't even be called "veiled"—aggressive questioning that would be considered charming if it came from Antonin Scalia showed that she didn't have the appropriate temperament, that the distinguished Yale Law-educated jurist lacked the intellect to be on the Supreme Court, etc. Needless to say...

Obama Rallies the Planned Parenthood Troops

(Photo: screenshot from Planned Parenthood video)
Republicans haven't been quite as eager to moralize against contraception after Rush Limbaugh gave voice to their true feelings, but Democrats aren't ready to let their argument that the GOP is waging a war on women slip by the wayside. Mitt Romney, a candidate who rarely seems comfortable when the discussion strays from the economy, is hoping that the issue will become a non-factor once he officially dismisses Rick Santorum and heads to the general election. Barack Obama clearly has a different view. The president issued a new subtle attack yesterday in a video where he directly addresses supporters of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "For you and for most Americans protecting women's health is a mission that stands above politics," Obama says in the two-minute video. "And yet over the past year you've had to stand up to politicians who want to deny millions of women the care they rely on, and inject themselves into decisions that are best made between a woman and her doctor." The...

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