E.J. Graff

Are Women the Richer Sex?

(Flickr / 401K)
Well, sure, women are the richer sex, if by "richer" you mean "making less money." If you take some tiny demographic slices—single, childless college-educated women in major urban areas— those women make more than men their age. But enough of me blathering. Here's some stats: National Women's Law Center I wrote about this subject on Equal Pay Day , before I came across Bryce Covert's fabulous Nation post " How to Close the Gender Wage Gap In Just Seven Easy* Steps ." ( Do read it for serious policy ideas written with verve.) One of her steps: raise the minimum wage. See? Easy!

It's Not "Sex." It's "Rape."

I know you're shocked, shocked to learn that there are more allegations of sexual assault against our good pal Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a.k.a. DSK. The experts on sex crimes tell us that most men behave well—but very small number are serial offenders, assaulting regularly. The latest allegations, according to The New York Times , come from his involvement in that pimping ring in Lille. According to one of the women prostituted there, DSK wasn't content to just pay for sex; he also had to force her into "certain sexual acts without her consent.” Gosh, that sure doesn't sound like someone who would force himself on a powerless housekeeper desperate to keep her job, does it? I have two good friends who, back when they were drug addicts (they're in "the programs" now), were prostituted by their boyfriends, more or less with their consent; drugs were expensive, they couldn't hold down jobs, and their self-respect was already in the toilet. But they've each, separately, mentioned that they...

Don't Adopt from Ethiopia

(Flickr / MNicoleM)
Miriam Jordan at The Wall Street Journal has published an investigative article about adoption from Ethiopia, which has for several years been riddled with allegations of fraud and unethical practices. This article tells the deceptively simple story of Melesech Roth, whose Ethiopian birthmother died of malaria, and whose birthfather (who lives in stone-age poverty) gave her up for adoption when someone came through his village, offering to take children to America who would later help support their families. The writing is so straightforward that you may not realize how extraordinary it is unless you've tried to write a similar piece. Persuading an adoptive family to talk with you on the record, and also finding the biological family and getting them to talk on the record, is a significant feat. The accompanying ten-minute video is even more powerful than the written story. You can see for yourself that Melesech, by any material measure, is far better off than her siblings, who are...

Bye-Bye, Gay Guy!

As we all know, for decades, "sexual perversion" ( i.e. , being gay) was a disqualifier for any position remotely related to national security—typist, say, or translator. That great Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the executive order barring us from government employment in 1953. Clinton barred sexual-orientation discrimination in federal employment in 1998, but that barely made up for Don't Ask Don't Tell, which enshrined antigay discrimination in the military. That's all better now, right? Right. Unless you're a Republican. As you may or may not have heard, for a few weeks there, Mitt Romney had a foreign policy spokesperson, Richard Grenell, who's gay. You and I might consider him disqualified from service on various grounds, such as the fact that Grenell previously worked for our favorite U.N. ambassador ever, John Bolton. But as you'd guess, that's not what got the attention of the Rs' antigay wing. For a few weeks, I heard speculation about how long Grenell would last...

How Queer Are We In Boston?

I've noticed for a long time that in different cities, the "LGBT" community—which in reality is an amalgam, a coalition, of different communities—is run by different sexes. If I'm reading it right, for instance, the major homos in DC tend to be men. Up here in the Boston/Cambridge area, ladies run the show. Mary Bonauto , Sue Hyde , Arline Isaacson , Elyse Cherry , Maura Healy , Susan Love (okay, she's moved west, but you get the picture): Yes, we have the likes of Barney Frank, but within the city, the LGBT table is set and run by the ladies. (And for everyone I left out, it was unintentional! I know you're powerful! My brain just fizzled for a second!). All of which is to say, I was anything but surprised when I found out that the city's premier power couple, Romeo and Juliet , turned out to be lesbians. The devoted swan pair is scheduled to return to the Public Garden this week . They've been together for 22 years, and came out as gay just one year after same-sex marriage was made...

Hey, Kids, Let's Invite Dan Savage To Our Conference!

Stop me if you've heard this one. Dan Savage walks into a high school journalists' conference, and talks like... well, like Dan Savage. He uses a word that is technically an obscenity —"bullshit"—but is, in today's crude culture, considered so mild that its use wouldn't even get a movie rated PG-13. He happens to use it referring to some of what you can find in the Bible—you know, not eating shellfish, not mixing cotton and linen in the same garment, stoning to death any woman who's not a virgin when she marries, banning gay male sex while okaying slavery. Some students walk out to show their disapproval, a perfectly acceptable free speech action. And for some reason, this becomes a nationwide scandal . Seriously? People, the man is a sex columnist . He's famous for redefining the word " Santorum " into an entirely new kind of obscenity after the good Senator ranted about "man on man, man on dog" sex. What did the high school journalists think he was going to be like in person? Sure,...

What the F@%& Is Up With Stephen King?

When I was a kid, I was plagued by nightmares. One scary TV show, and boom, I'd wake up paralyzed with terror after a night in which animal-headed people tried to kill me all night, or Nazis pursued me through the streets of New York. After awhile, my little brothers knew to protectively chase me away from the television if something even faintly Hitchcockian came on; while they'd watch, I'd hunker down in my bedroom with Anne of Green Gables or, later, Tolstoy. My basic aversion to, or caution about, horror movies and scary books lasted well into my adulthood, until I learned how to tune down the fear and sleep through the night. But horror is a taste that I've never fully developed. All of which is to say that I haven't ever been a Stephen King reader or viewer—until yesterday, when he jumped on the Warren Buffett bandwagon with his Daily Beast blast, "Tax Me, For F@%&’s Sake!" Here's the gist: At a rally in Florida (to support collective bargaining and to express the socialist...

Do Gay People Count?

No one knows how many LGBT Americans there are. You've surely heard the one in ten estimate, derived from Alfred Kinsey's groundbreaking studies; he claimed, based on research from a study of male prisoners, that one in ten men were " exclusively homosexual " for about three years of their lives. That's hardly generalizable to the idea that one in ten of us land somewhere to the right of center on the Kinsey Scale . More recent studies and estimates suggest that the number is somewhere between 1 and 3 percent of the population. But no one knows. And that matters for all kinds of things. If you don't count a group, that group doesn't count. Gay bashings didn't get taken seriously until the Bureau of Justice Statistics started keeping track of how many there were. The LGBT voting bloc gets taken more seriously now that sexual orientation is one of the questions asked in exit polling . (About 3 percent of voters self-identify as LGBT in those polls.) Researchers want more information...

Payback Time

Here's how it works: Little red riding hood gets abused at home. Then she meets the man of her dreams. (Sometimes this happens after she runs away to escape the abuse, since wolves hang out in bus stations, scanning for prey. Or maybe it happens outside her middle school for delinquent girls. Opportunities are many.) Wolf showers girl with attention, love, sexual passion—all the things she's been starved for all her life. Then, after a few weeks, he asks her to prove her love by going out on the street or meeting men solicited on backpage.com , where code words are used to signal that she's well under 18, so they can pay for their apartment, or food, or whatever it might be. Within another few weeks, her body is being sold eight to twelve hours a day. Her captivity is enforced by violence, isolation, coercion, branding, and constant supervision. After awhile, she's convinced that she's worthless, that no one else will ever love her, that police will arrest her and civilians would...

The Afterlife of Gabriel Arana's Ex-Gay Life

Like thousands of you, I was absolutely gobsmacked by my editor Gabriel Arana's piece, " My So-Called Ex-Gay Life ." If it hadn't run into here first, I would have linked to it. Of course, there was the heartbreaking and finally uplifting personal story that took us through the social history of antigay "therapy." But what astonished me was the courage he had to actually report out the story, calling and talking to the key players who made "reparative therapy" intellectually respectable enough that caring parents like the Arana's would search it out and sign up their son, truly believing that they were doing the right thing. I know you've read it, so I won't belabor all that here. What I will post: Dr. Robert Spitzer's full-on public renunciation of his 2001 study. As you've read already, Gabriel Arana's reportorial call triggered Spitzer's decision to openly repudiate that work. He's now written an apology, which he's sent to the editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior that has been...

The Queer List, Part 1: Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool)
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool) Del Martin, 87, center left, and Phyllis Lyon, 84, center right, are married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom , center, in a special ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco, Monday, June 16, 2008. Also pictured are the couple's witnesses, Roberta Achtenberg, left, and Donna Hitchens. Lyon and Martin became the first officially married same sex couple after California's Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal. Once upon a time, we all knew their names. They shaped our world and our attitudes to ourselves. We had their books on our bookshelves, since there were very few books on the subject. Or we read about their travails in our subterranean newspapers— Gay Community News, The Washington Blade —which we received in the mail, in brown manila envelopes so that we weren't outed unintentionally to our neighbors. (Yes, seriously.) For the most part, the rest of the world ignored us. And so these figures who loomed so large in our lives were invisible...

What Kind of Girl Are You?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has just issued a groundbreaking ruling, one so profound that it will transform many lives in years to come. Before I tell you what it is, I’m going to ask you to dive into two thought experiments and read just a bit of employment history. First, the thought experiments. Imagine that, for years, you’ve been been doing an outstanding job at whatever it is you do: driving a forklift, or teaching biology, or engineering bridges, or putting out fires . Your job is a refuge: Here’s a place you can excel, no matter the tumult you’ve had inside. You enjoy your colleagues; you like the respect and satisfaction you get from doing things well. Meanwhile, in your private life, you have come to the realization that only one thing would make your life worth living is adjusting your body to the sex you feel yourself to be, inside, rather than the sex you were born with and that everyone else sees. You begin the long process of transitioning from...

The Madwoman in the Attic

Awhile back, I wasted an evening watching the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre , something that every former lit major should avoid. I loved the novel for its depiction of the vivid, rich inner life of a proud introvert who is passionately engaged in her life despite the fact that she knows it to be outwardly pathetic. The movie, unable to reproduce the character's inner liveliness, reduced the story to a melodramatic and utterly unlikely romance between a poor orphan and an arrogant nobleman. I had wasted marital chits on a movie that I hated as much as my wife knew she would. (Sports movies, here we come. Sigh.) Watching the movie sent me back to Jean Rhys’s astonishing Wide Sargasso Sea , which I remembered as an imagining of Bertha Rochester’s backstory, asking how, exactly, did the madwoman in the attic get there to begin with? I’ve lately been stripping my bookshelves, getting rid of novels I know I won’t read again, like Rhys’s earlier sharply drawn portraits of women I have no...

The Dignity of Reproductive Choice

On Wednesday, I posted briefly about Jennie Linn McCormack, in a piece I called " What Does An Abortionist Look Like? " It was an intentionally provocative title, which aimed to draw attention to a story that's been ignored: a woman who took RU-486, ordered over the Internet, and was arrested for inducing her own abortion. I was trying to make two points. First, what happens when governments restrict access to abortion? Women start doing it for themselves. Second, do we really want to put desperate women in jail for trying to control their own bodies? But several things about the piece drew some criticism from a number of reproductive rights advocates, people whose politics and efforts I respect. One critic, Gretchen Sisson, was kind enough to write a thoughtful critique of my piece. With her permission, I am posting that below. I want to say first that I'm so glad you're writing about the Jennie McCormack case. Not enough people are writing about the Jennie McCormack case. I also...

You Can Have It

I know what you're thinking. Here it is, National Poetry Month, and E.J. hasn't yet posted a single poem. Mea culpa. So here's a famous progressive poem by our current national poet laureate, Philip Levine , a poem that is still as heartbreaking as it ever was. You Can Have It My brother comes home from work and climbs the stairs to our room. I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop one by one. You can have it, he says. The moonlight streams in the window and his unshaven face is whitened like the face of the moon. He will sleep long after noon and waken to find me gone. Thirty years will pass before I remember that moment when suddenly I knew each man has one brother who dies when he sleeps and sleeps when he rises to face this life, and that together they are only one man sharing a heart that always labours, hands yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it? All night at the ice plant he had fed the chute its silvery blocks, and then I stacked...

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