Gender & Sexuality

Michael Boggs, an Unacceptable Judicial Nominee

U.S. District Court nominee Michael Boggs seems like an all-too-depressing example of a typical 21st-century Republican federal judicial appointment. As a state legislator, he voted to keep a symbol of treason in defense of slavery and lawlessness in defense of apartheid on the state flag. He opposes reproductive freedom. He supported amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Given his conservative views and apparent neoconfederate sympathies, he has attracted strong opposition from members of Congress like the civil rights icon John Lewis. What's even more depressing is that Boggs was nominated not by George W. Bush but by Barack Obama. How did this happen? And should be done about it? The primary villains here, as is so often the case, reside in the World's Worst Deliberative Body. Senate Democrats took an long time to abolish the filibuster for executive branch and sub-Supreme Court judicial appointments, permitting the Republican minority in the Senate to engage in...

Moral Monday Movement Gears Up for Round Two

2013 ©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina conference of the NAACP, leads a Moral Monday protest in Raleigh, N.C., in 2013. This article has been corrected. O n Wednesday afternoon, the North Carolina legislature will open its 2014 session. It will be hard for the Republican majority to top last year’s performance, which shattered the final vestiges of the state’s 50-year reputation for moderate governance. With the help of newly elected GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, lawmakers in 2013 slashed both public education and unemployment benefits. They rejected an expansion of Medicaid, paid for almost entirely by the federal government, that would have covered at least 300,000 low-income North Carolinians. They cut corporate taxes and eliminated the earned-income credit for low-wage workers. And they rewrote the state’s election laws in a way that will make registration and voting harder, particularly for African-American, blue-collar, and younger voters. They might have...

The Clear-Eyed Utopianism of Ellen Willis

University of Minnesota Press
University of Minnesota Press Ellen Willis, circa 1970 However much you may respect and admire a journalistic colleague, routine proximity to her and her work can dull your understanding of her overall accomplishment. I'm proud to say that I knew Ellen Willis slightly; during my stint at the Village Voice , we worked together a couple of times and occasionally chatted. Of course, I was also reading her Voice pieces as they came out, so a lot of what's included in The Essential Ellen Willis —edited by her daughter, Nona Willis Aronowitz, and newly out from the University of Minnesota Press —isn't unfamiliar to me. Re-encountering insights and stray observations of Willis's that had stayed messily filed in my brain for 30 years or more was an ongoing pleasure. But the effect of reading her in bulk was staggering just the same. Gee, one of the 20th century's great essayists and feminist pioneers used to say "Hi" to me when our paths crossed in the office. Dedicated utopianism will never...

Cannes Looks a Lot Like Hollywood: The Power Belongs to Men

AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau
AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau From left, actor Forest Whitaker, director Jerome Salle and actor Orlando Bloom arrive for the awards ceremony of the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 26, 2013. When the Cannes International Film Festival opens on May 14, only two of the nineteen directors up for the prestigious Palme d’Or, the festival's highest honor, will be women. But before one starts assailing Cannes for sexism, consider this: The percentage of female directors in contention for the festival’s top prize is nearly twice as high as that of women directors working in Hollywood. Last year, only 6 percent of the directors working on the 250 highest-grossing American films were women, a number that has remained in the single digits since data was first collected in the late 1990s. Only four women have ever been nominated for a Best Director Oscar, and only one, Kathryn Bigelow in 2009, has won. Directing is not the only behind-the-camera role dominated...

Daily Meme: You Probably Should Check Your Privilege

Screen shot of Tal Fortgang via Fox News
Sometimes, in the wilds of the internet, all it takes to get people's blood boiling is a screed from one college freshman. Such is the saga of Tal Fortgang, a Princeton first-year who wrote an inflammatory essay in the campus conservative magazine about being told to "check his privilege."If you're not familiar with the phrase ( described by the New York Times as "conversational kryptonite"), it's often used to remind those who may not be aware of their elite status (including, but not limited to, white male Princeton students) of their personal social advantages. Fortgang wrote that "check your privilege" has become a kind of liberal policing mechanism. "The phrase, handed down by my moral superiors, descends recklessly, like an Obama-sanctioned drone, and aims laser-like at my pinkish-peach complexion, my maleness, and the nerve I displayed in offering an opinion rooted in a personal Weltanschauung." (Extra points here for his exceptional use of jargon.) In other words: This...

White House Action on Campus Sexual Violence: For Me, It's Personal

Photo: Aimee Lang
Aimee Lang At an April 2013 anti-rape protest, the author tells her story of surviving sexual assault at Tufts University. O ne of the biggest contributors to the perpetuation of sexual violence is silence. Time and time again, survivors have found themselves dealing with administrators who repeatedly opt to protect a school’s reputation rather than protect the students they are supposed to protect and serve. Universities have long been taking advantage of the silence of survivors to cover up the gross injustices they have been committing. Last week was pivotal moment in the movement to address the alarmingly high rates of campus sexual violence. On May 1, the Department of Education found Tufts University out of compliance with Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. This is the first time in the history of the 40-year-old law that a school has been found out of compliance by the federal government in regard to the way it addresses...

Could a Clinton Candidacy Give Us a Healthy Debate About Sexism?

Yeah, there'll be more of this.
Hillary Clinton has had, let's say, a difficult relationship with the media. It isn't too surprising for someone who's been in the national spotlight for over two decades; outside of John McCain, I can't think of many politicians who love the press and feel like they always get a fair shake. But there's a piece in Politico today by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman that goes into some interesting detail about Clinton's feelings on this topic, particularly about some of the sexism she's had to endure. "Look, she hates you. Period. That's never going to change," says one anonymous Clinton ally, referring to the media. Here's more: If Clinton says yes, she'll have access to a bottomless pool of Democratic political talent and cash to match all those hyperbolic pronouncements about her inevitability. If she doesn't run, the single biggest factor holding her back will be the media, according to an informal survey of three dozen friends, allies and former aides interviewed for this article...

Daily Meme: Ladies' Choice

Nothing sparks speculation in Washington like a new political memoir, but two are a true bonanza, enough fodder for days of online chatter. Last week, Hillary Clinton announced that the story of her four years as Secretary of State, the unimaginatively named Hard Choices , will appear in bookstores in June. Although Clinton has yet to officially declare her candidacy for the presidential nomination in 2016, publishing the book is as good as throwing her hat in the ring, at least according to some . Or maybe she just needs a book tour to stroke her ego , says Peggy Noonan. Just as the mania over the new Clinton opus began to wane today, Elizabeth Warren's memoir hit the shelves , bringing the debate over Clinton's chances roaring back to life. Warren continues to insist that she isn't running for president in 2016. But the book reads a lot like a campaign ad . There's also the question of why she chose to write the book in the first place. Political memoirs, after all, rarely sell well...

How Big Data Could Undo Our Civil-Rights Laws

iStockPhoto
iStockPhoto B ig Data will eradicate extreme world poverty by 2028, according to Bono , front man for the band U2. But it also allows unscrupulous marketers and financial institutions to prey on the poor . Big Data, collected from the neonatal monitors of premature babies , can detect subtle warning signs of infection, allowing doctors to intervene earlier and save lives. But it can also help a big-box store identify a pregnant teenager —and carelessly inform her parents by sending coupons for baby items to her home. News-mining algorithms might have been able to predict the Arab Spring . But Big Data was certainly used to spy on American Muslims when the New York City Police Department collected license plate numbers of cars parked near mosques, and aimed surveillance cameras at Arab-American community and religious institutions. Until recently, debate about the role of metadata and algorithms in American politics focused narrowly on consumer privacy protections and Edward Snowden’s...

Judging Obama's "Evolution" on Marriage Equality

White House photo by Pete Souza
Years from now, Barack Obama will almost certainly be seen as the most significant American president in the history of the gay rights movement. Under his watch, the military ended its policy of discrimination against gay servicemembers, the Defense of Marriage Act was abandoned by the administration and then overturned by the Supreme Court, and a majority of Americans came to embrace marriage equality—not least, the president himself. But there's another way to look at that story, which is that on marriage, at least, Obama had to be dragged to the position he eventually took. An article in next Sunday's New York Times Magazine , by Jo Becker, details just what the process was, and if you're looking for evidence that Obama's "evolution" on the issue was purely political, there's plenty. I don't know too many liberals who would doubt it—or conservatives either, for that matter. The former see a president whose heart was in the right place but was cautious about when it would be...

Did Jesus Have a Wife?

An ancient fragment doesn’t prove that Jesus was married—but it does raise questions about Christians’ attitudes toward sex.

AP Photo/Harvard University, Karen L. King
T he world of ancient papyrology—the study of tiny scraps of manuscripts unearthed in archeological digs across the Mediterranean—is not, in general, a font of juicy media stories. That is, unless the papyrus in question seems to suggest that Jesus, long understood to have been celibate, was married. Last September, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King presented her initial findings about a business-card-sized fragment of papyrus, believed to be the work of early followers of Jesus. The 33 words on the fragment included: Jesus said to them, “My wife …" "she will be able to be my disciple" King’s discovery—which she dubbed the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”—immediately made headlines across the world, and sent shockwaves through academic and religious communities. The Vatican dismissed the fragment, saying it was a clear fake. Scholars of antiquity lined up on either side, some declaring it a historic find, while others decried it as an inept forgery designed to undermine...

The Culture War Goes On

The Louisiana state house, threatened by the dark clouds of sin and wickedness. (Flickr/Ken Lund)
These days, liberals might be forgiven for feeling that they've won the culture war, or at least that they're winning. With the large exception of abortion (on which opinions have basically not budged in decades and conservative states have moved aggressively to curtail women's rights), on most hot-button social issues the country continues to move left. Marriage equality is now embraced by a majority of Americans, as is marijuana legalization. Basic conservative ideas about family life—that women should stay home whether they want to or not, that children benefit from a good beating now and again—live on in the hearts of many but have been vanquished from the realm of reasonable debate. On these issues and many others, young people are far more liberal than the old, particularly the oldest generations that are dying out. But the culture war has always, and will always, be with us. And just because you've lost a particular battle, it doesn't mean you can't keep fighting it. To wit,...

’Coming Out’ Doesn’t Begin to Describe It: Message from a Trans Survivor

For trans people, revealing their history calls the truth of their gender into question.

Courtesy of TED Conferences
Courtesy of TED Conferences Geena Rocero at the TED 2014 conference A fter more than a decade representing top brands as a model in New York, Geena Rocero compelled us to reconsider womanhood when, during a March 31 TED Talk, she revealed that she is transgender . "Today, this very moment, is my real coming out,” Rocero told a TED audience gathered at the Vancouver Convention Center in Vancouver, Canada. “I could no longer live my truth for and by myself. I want to do my best to help others live their truth without shame and terror.” In the weeks that followed, the press treated Rocero’s announcement, delivered on the International Transgender Day of Visibility, with much the same fanfare as the recent string of gay athletes coming out in professional and college sports. Harper's Bazaar and Glamour called her story "inspiring" and “moving"; she sat for an interview with New York magazine and did a first-person piece for CNN.com. Having revealed my trans status publicly, I struggled...

The Abortion Restriction That’s Too Extreme for Most Pro-Lifers

AP Images/The Columbus Dispatch/Brooke LaValley
E arlier this month, lawmakers in Kansas ended this session’s debate over abortion on a surprisingly low-key note. The Republican leadership shepherded two minor tweaks to existing abortion policies through the legislature, while staving off a far more contentious measure: a bill that would criminalize abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill’s advocates say they are confident it would have passed, had it reached the floor; Kansas has strong anti-abortion majorities in both houses of the legislature and pro-life crusader Sam Brownback in the governor’s mansion. But the Republican leadership, prompted by the state’s most powerful pro-life group, Kansans for Life, used a legislative loophole to keep their more radical colleagues from attaching the fetal heartbeat proposal. Why, in a state where nearly every strain of anti-abortion restriction has taken root with ease, are advocates of the fetal heartbeat ban facing such stiff...

Yes, Being a Woman Makes You Poorer

AP Images/Susan Walsh
S enate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, a bill that would make it illegal for employers to punish workers for discussing wages and would require them to share pay information with the Employment Opportunity Commission. President Barack Obama has already signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from punishing employees who talk about their pay. These two actions were pegged to the somewhat made up holiday called “Equal Pay Day” celebrated Tuesday, and were discussed by many in Washington in merely political terms : evidence of attempts by Democrats to woo women voters and a continuing sign of Republicans' “difficulties” with them. Elsewhere, pundits and writers wanted to discuss whether the pay gap really existed. A few years ago, some conservatives and a few liberals began to attack the much-talked-about fact that women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar as untrue, based largely on the idea that the gap itself was mostly accounted for by...

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