Gender & Sexuality

This Goes Out to All the Ladies

(Gabriel Arana)

This past election, President Barack Obama made blatant appeals to female voters to great success. Fifty-five percent of women and a jaw-dropping 68 percent of single women voted for the president this round. Feminist and reproductive-rights groups especially campaigned hard, not just to reward him for some significant wins for women in office but because they widely believed that he could do even more in a second term, especially with 18 congressional seats swapping from anti- or mixed-choice to pro-choice.

Who's the Boss?

(Flickr/OzinOH)

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court looked into the question of who counts as a “supervisor” for the purpose of employment law. If you’re not an employment-law watcher, it sounds like the legal equivalent of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But the answer is going to have real-life consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Let me illustrate. 

Forget the Pompoms

With the development of acro and stunt programs, cheerleaders seek official recognition as athletes.

(Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

If the leaves are changing color, it means all things pigskin hog the spotlight, with the main focus on the football field as gridiron gladiators go to battle. But shift the attention to the sidelines to the cheerleading squad, and you’ll find similar athleticism and the same kinds of debates over safety concerns as those currently at the center of football. It’s a reminder of a question that would appear simple on the surface but is in fact bedeviling the world of athletics: Is cheerleading a sport?

It's Time to Liberate Men

The women’s movement can serve as inspiration for a new generation of men who wish to rewrite masculinity.

(AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

The “war on men” article on the Fox News website, which—spoiler alert!—blames women for ruining modern men, has been snaking its way around the Internet the past few days and pissing off a lot of people in the process. While it’s ostensibly intended to shame and blame a generation of he-women determined to emasculate their male counterparts, it is instead, somewhat unintentionally, a valuable entrée into what happens when the evolution of gender roles for men does not keep pace with that of women. In it, author Suzanne Venker (a right-wing pundit and niece of Phyllis Schlafly), lays out the logic of her argument as follows:

What's Next for Marriage Equality?

(AP Photo/The Capitol, Paul W. Gillespie)

In case you missed it, Team Marriage Equality just won five different statewide votes (I’m counting the Iowa race, where NOM failed in its attempt to recall one of the Supreme Court justices who voted for equal marriage). Okay, so maybe you heard. Everyone and her brother has been reporting on the ballot breakthrough, including me in my most giddily Tiggerish incarnation.

Kevin Clash, Take Two

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

So there’s a second lawsuit against Kevin Clash, formerly the voice of Elmo, alleging that he had sex with an underage teenager. As a result, Clash has resigned from Sesame Street, according to the New York Post, which explains:

Clash’s sudden downfall came hours after published reports emerged that a man in his mid-30s filed a lawsuit against Clash, accusing the beloved puppeteer of having underaged sex with him when he was just 15.

Dying for a Pro-Life Cause

(Rex Features via AP Images)

So now we know they really mean it: They’d rather see a woman die than have an abortion.

You may have heard this story. Thirty-one-year-old Savita Halappanavar, who was visiting Ireland from India, was 17 weeks pregnant when she went to University Hospital Galway with back pain. They found out that she was miscarrying. According to the Irish Times, after spending a day in severe pain, Halappanavar started begging to have delivery induced, since there was no way the fetus could survive. She was refused, because the fetus still had a heartbeat. Here’s how the Irish Times reports on what happened next:

Goodbye to Barney Frank

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

For The Advocate, I conducted an exit interview with Barney Frank, the first voluntarily out LGBT member of Congress. I needn't tell Prospect readers that Frank has had an incredibly distinguished career as a legislator on behalf of the downtrodden, progressive attack dog, gay advocate, and master of the withering soundbite. Before I went, I told my wife that my goal was to be told a particular question was "stupid" fewer than three times. In fact, I didn't hear that once. Do we need any more evidence that imminent retirement has mellowed the man?

Don't Fear the Backlash

(Flickr/David Schumaker)

Many observers have criticized the approach of using litigation to achieve social change ever since a Hawaii court ruled in 1993 that the denial of marriage benefits to same-sex couples was unconstitutional—criticism that only accelerated after Massachusetts's landmark Goodridge decision in 2003 ruling that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Much of this criticism takes the form of what I call the "countermobilization myth"—that is, the idea that victories won through the courts produce unique amounts of political backlash that make them counterproductive. The remarkable wave of success for LBGT rights on Election Day, combined with a steady increase in support for same-sex marriage, makes the countermobilization myth even more untenable. Michael Klarman's invaluable new book, From the Closet to the Altar, remains somewhat ambivalent about the use of litigation to advance same-sex marriage. But ultimately, it provides a powerful case that in the right circumstances, litigation can be an effective tool for social reform.

Hell No, Elmo!

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Earlier this week, I said that I just don’t care about General David Petraeus’s affair. I’ve since heard political writers explaining that the affair itself may be immaterial; what matters was that Petraeus was compromising intelligence, granting line-crossing levels of access to someone unknown to the CIA. That may be so. But no matter how giddily silly the whole thing has become—what with the threatened good friend and the shirtless anti-Obama FBI agent (why are men “shirtless” and not “topless”?)—I don’t care about the affair itself: consensual adults, and all that.  

Maggie & Me

(AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

On Friday, Maggie Gallagher and I had a conversation on Blogginheads in which we continued our attempt to, as she puts it so brilliantly, “achieve disagreement” about whether it is good or bad to gender-neutralize marriage’s entrance rules—i.e., to allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Maggie, as you may know, is one of the chief opponents of same-sex marriage, and has made arguing against our marriages a large part of her career. As you also know, just three days before we spoke, the pro-marriage equality side had won four different state referenda by about 52-48.

Liberté, Égalité, Homosexualité

When it comes to marriage equality, the French are surprisingly behind the times.

(Flickr/Guillaume Paumier)

France exists in the American imagination mostly in caricatured form. On matters of sex, in particular, the French are thought of as being ahead of the curve, transcending the bounds of traditional morality—a perception shared by American progressives, who admire them for being liberated, and by conservatives, who consider them amoral libertines.

It may therefore come as a surprise that on matters of gay marriage and the full legal recognition of gay couples, France has lagged behind both the United States, where nine states recognize same-sex marriage, and a number of other European countries. But this is about to change: A few days ago, the French cabinet approved a draft bill on the legalization of gay marriage and adoption in accordance with the pre-election pledges of socialist president François Hollande. If passed, the bill, which is due for debate in parliament in late January, will make France the ninth country in Europe and the seventh in the European Union to recognize gay marriage.

The Reproductive Rights Checklist

Delegates cheer as President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards addresses the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

How did women's health issues fare in the election, and what do we have to look forward to?

Justice, Retained

(Flickr/sundee.forsyth)

Two years ago, amid the shellacking of congressional Democrats in the midterm elections, three Iowa Supreme Court justices—Marsha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit—lost their seats after conservative activists launched a campaign against all the judges who joined the unanimous Varnum v. Brien decision in 2009, which legalized gay marriage in the state.

Iowans shifted gears Tuesday, retaining David Wiggins, another of the Varnum judges that conservatives had sought to oust. Wiggens was the only judge up for a retention vote, which Supreme Court justices in the state face every eight years.

When It Comes to Lady Politicians, We've Got a Long Way to Go

(Flickr/Leader Nancy Pelosi)

It's made for a great narrative: Tuesday night, female candidates prevailed in nearly all the tightest, most-watched Senate races around the country. A historic number of women will now serve in the upper chamber, once the boysiest of boys' clubs. If that wasn't enough to prompt some girl-power cheering, there was the news out of New Hampshire that, with the election of Maggie Hassan to the state's top executive spot, the governor, senators, and congressional representatives now all carry XX chromosomes.

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