Gender & Sexuality

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: Gender roles and relations are changing, thanks to that pesky thorn in every caveman’s side, feminism. Women’s liberation created a generation of “women who aren’t being women” anymore, so, understandably, men are less interested in marrying them, and pissed off about the lack of “real” women. Meanwhile, all the poor, brainwashed women who unwittingly traded stable...

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. There’s been some fabulous reporting on what made the difference. Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed wrote a careful report on the behind-the-scenes research and the shift in emphasis in the messaging, which is well worth reading in full. Here’s a snippet: Among the key changes were a shift away from talk of "rights" to a focus on committed relationships; a decision to address "values" directly as being learned at home; and an attempt to give voters "permission" to change their minds…. The research was sponsored by Third Way — a centrist Democratic think tank — that conducted an extended round of surveys beginning in...

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. The federal civil complaint, filed in New York by Cecil Singleton, alleged that Clash—now 52—picked him up in 1993 on a gay phone chat line. Singleton said he was 15 at the time, while Clash was 32. "[Clash] trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys,” Singleton claimed in his explosive lawsuit. "[Clash] groomed [the accuser] to gain his trust by, among other things, taking him to nice dinners and giving him money." Now the first accuser wants to “recant his recantation,” again levying his allegation that the sex...

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: Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination. This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they...

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? Frank said a couple of things that I found immensely moving, and which I'll excerpt here. I asked him why, when he spoke with Jason Zengerle of New York Magazine , he listed progress on LGBT issues as the first of the accomplishments he was proud of—before financial reform. Here's what he said when I asked him why: [Financial reform] may be important to more people—but it’s not as important as your own personal dignity and rights. We went...

Don't Fear the Backlash

(Flickr/David Schumaker)
(Flickr/Dave Schumaker) Supporters and protestors of same-sex marriage gather outside San Francisco's City Hall in 2008. 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 a unique amount of political backlash that make them counterproductive. The remarkable wave of success for LGBT 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 ambivalent about the use of...

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. But the Elmo puppeteer story does bother me. In case you missed it, Kevin Clash is a six-foot-tall African-American man, now 52, who does the voice of the Sesame Street icon. Earlier this week, word came out that a young man, now 23, accused Clash of getting involved with him when the accuser was 16 years old—under the age of consent. Sesame Street put Clash on a leave of absence while it investigated. The accuser has...

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. Maggie was generous in loss; looking at the video, I am embarrassed to say I was testy and not as generous in return. I will apologize. At the same time, I do think our differing philosophies of marriage become clearer and clearer. She is correct in that hers is losing. As she says, “the fact that sex between men and women makes babies is the central fact about it.” She believes that the purpose of marriage is to...

Liberté, Égalité, Homosexualité

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

(Flickr/Guillaume Paumier)
(Flickr/Guillaume Paumier) A gay pride march in Toulouse, France. The placard quotes Brigitte Barèges, a member of the French National Assembly who sparked controversy for her comments on same-sex marriage: "Why not let people get married to animals too?" F rance 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...

The Reproductive Rights Checklist

Delegates cheer as President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards addresses the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
After an election in which Republican rape philosophers —from Todd Akin in Missouri to Richard Mourdock in Indiana— went down in defeat , and after 20 women, the most in any year in history, were elected to the Senate, it would be reasonable to hope the political chatter devoted to concern-trolling over ladyparts will decline. But we shouldn’t assume the issue is going away. Battles over funding are likely to become a bigger priority for both pro- and anti-choicers. With that, here’s a review of the good, the bad, and the ugly for the future of reproductive rights. The Good Because Obama won the election, the Affordable Care Act will continue to be implemented, which bodes well for reproductive health care. The ACA requires insurance to cover a slate of women’s preventive health services without requiring a copay , including well-woman visits, testing for HPV—a virus that causes many forms of cervical cancer—and, most contentiously, contraception. Many insurance plans have started...

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 2009 Varnum v. Brien , 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. Wiggins was the only judge up for a retention vote this go-around, which Supreme Court justices in the state face every eight years. What changed? The liberal network of pro-judge groups that failed in 2010 learned from their mistakes. Two years ago, the campaign led by prominent conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats took progressives by surprise. Liberal voters paid little attention to the retention vote, believing that Vander Plaats posed no real challenge—after all, retention votes were on the backside of the ballot...

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

(Flickr/Leader Nancy Pelosi)
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Democrat Elizabeth Warren takes the stage after defeating incumbent GOP Senator Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, during an election night rally at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel in Boston, Tuesday, November 6, 2012. I t'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. Several commentators have noted there's still a long way to go. But perhaps, more notably, there's little evidence that these wins are part of a wider trend for female candidates. The political gains were most notable in the Senate,...

Handicapping the Marriage-Equality Initiatives

(AP Photo/The Capitol, Paul W. Gillespie)
This is the tenth in the Prospect's series on the 174 measures on state ballots this year. Marriage equality is up for vote in four states. In three states, voters have a chance to affirmatively say yes to allowing their state to marry same-sex couples; in the fourth, voters can add a “one man-one woman” marriage clause to the state’s constitution. As we all know, support for LGBT issues in general, and marriage equality in particular, has been getting stronger every year, as more of us talk to our families and friends, explaining that love and devotion are the same whether you love a boy or a girl. Will this be the year that, at long last, we win at least one marriage vote at the polls? Below is a list of the states to watch, with some brief handicapping. As you watch, remember these two things about the difference between opinion polls and the final polling: All undecideds vote against marriage equality. Ignore the spread. A couple of points of support disappear at the ballot, as...

Don't Marry Me in Minnesota

(Flickr/Fibbonaci Blue)
(Flickr/Fibonacci Blue) The Capital Rotunda in St. Paul, Minnesotta. Participants in African-American Lobby Day occupy the first floor while protestors against the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage fill the halls on the second floor. A s I’ve been writing here, marriage is on the ballot in four states on Tuesday: Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota. The upbeat news from the first three is that voters have a chance to say "yes" to letting same-sex couples get married; the ballot question is some variant of this sentence: Should [our state] issue civil marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples, while preserving religious freedom and protecting clergy from having to perform such marriages if doing so violates their tenets? The fight in Minnesota is harder. Its ballot measure is the bad old kind that will amend the state constitution to insist that civil marriage licenses can only be issued to different-sex couples. Here’s the background. In 1971, waaaay back...

Wisconsin's Red-State Scare

(Flickr/James Morey)
(The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Tammy Baldwin speaks to supporters at the Democratic headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. O n a rainy Sunday night in Madison, Wisconsin, 30 energized volunteers turned out at the Democratic headquarters on State Street to register University of Wisconsin students to vote. Tammy Baldwin, sporting a magenta blazer, milled about, chatting with the constituents she represents in the U.S. House. Come January, she'll either be out of Congress or representing a larger swath of the state in the U.S. Senate. Facing former four-term Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, Baldwin is locked in one of the closest Senate races in the country. Most recent polls have her favored by a slim margin, with Real Clear Politics' average putting her up by just 0.3 percent. It's been a brutal few years for Democrats in Wisconsin. The state elected and re-elected one of the nation's most right-wing governors, launched Paul Ryan into the national spotlight, and voted out...

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