Gender & Sexuality

When Politics Isn't Polite

The Family Research Council is calling for the gay-rights movement to tone it down. Here's why they shouldn't.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The recent attack on the conservative Family Research Council (FRC) by a man who volunteered at an LGBT center in Washington, D.C. has prompted renewed calls for civility in public discourse. A raft of conservative bloggers and the FRC itself have called on groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled the FRC as a "hate group," to tone down their rhetoric. Perhaps the most prominent voice trying to get the right and left to get along is the Washington Post's Dana Milbank:

The Radicalism of Akin and Romney

Since yesterday morning, political conversation has been dominated by the comments of Todd Akin, a (formerly) obscure Missouri congressman and Republican candidate for Senate. "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told local reporters, explaining his absolute opposition to abortion, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

And if these natural defenses fail? “Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Akin Unmasks the Pro-Life Movement

Akin's comment stems from basic assumptions anti-choicers make about women.

(Flickr/KasiaSie)

If you’re going to slander the estimated 32,000 women a year who become pregnant after being raped, it’s probably not wise to do it on a Sunday, when it will lead the next week’s news coverage. Republican nominee for Missouri Senate Todd Akin chose not to follow this bit of wisdom, instead declaring in a television interview yesterday that women can’t get pregnant from rape. 

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Breaking Bad TV Expectations

Skyler White and other anti-hero wives have been doused in haterade lately instead of getting the sympathy they deserve.

(AP Photo/AMC, Ursula Coyote)

Breaking Bad’s Skyler White should be taking her place as one of the most beloved TV characters of all time. Performed with vanity-free honesty by Anna Gunn, Skyler, wife of the show’s protagonist Walter White, has gone through a lot the past three seasons: discovering her husband’s secret meth business, agreeing to cover it up with him, and eventually realizing that she’s stuck in a domestic violence situation with no clear path to escape. Despite all this, the character has shown remarkable fortitude and cunning that often equals her husband’s, as if she were a better version of Walter, equipped with the compassion and humility he lacks.

So why do the fans hate her so much?

More on Rhetoric, Hatred, and Violence

Yesterday, I wrote about Floyd Corkins, the man who shot a security guard at the Family Research Council. (By the way, many people have called him a gay activist. I haven’t yet seen any reporting that identified him as gay; so far we only know that he was a volunteer at a D.C. LGBT community center. Straight people do volunteer for LGBT groups these days.) More recent reporting says that he was carrying Chik-Fil-A bags, apparently in an attempt to make a point about opposing LGBT rights.  I was deeply disturbed that anyone would do such a thing, as if in my name. As my post’s title suggested, fighting hate with violence is absurd and appalling.

Fighting Hate with ... Violence?

Yesterday, a gunman entered the Washington, D.C. offices of the Family Research Council, a religious group that advocates far-right positions on social issues, and shot a security guard in the arm. Floyd Lee Corkins II, the shooter, reportedly yelled that it wasn't personal; it was about FRC’s policies. (You can see the shooter in this local news report.) The security guard is now in the hospital, in stable condition—thank God—and the FBI has Corkins.

Pride and Prejudice

A week or two ago—how quickly it disappears in the rearview mirror!—my family went on vacation to Provincetown, the gorgeous seaside town at the at the tip of Cape Cod. Formerly a whaling town, Ptown has for the last century been an arts colony and LGBT haven, which suits my primary interests. After many years of vacationing there, I have my favorite galleries, gardens, beaches, shops, and perches, like everyone else. 

Today in Gay and Women's Rights

I know we've all been preoccupied with that dude who's going to be the Republican veep candidate when the convention rolls around. But a few lines down, there's been some sweet news. 

In a first, we now have the very first openly gay brigadier general in the army. New general Tammy S. Smith had her wife Tracey Hepner pin the medal on in the ceremony. Just the thought of it makes me feel all quavery. How sweet is that? (Thanks to Rex Wockner for bringing this to my attention.) Here are some relevant quotes from The New York Times article about it:

Back Off, Masculinity Patrol

This Olympics, we witnessed the results of an American gender revolution. Did you notice all those American women athletes who excelled on the field? As Amanda Marcotte noted here with pride and praise, our gals have clearly shaken off the pressure to overcompensate for their athleticism by playing sweetly feminine off the field.

Thrown Away for Being Gay

(Letter image courtesy of thinkprogress.org)

Over at ThinkProgress, Zack Ford quotes and verifies a letter from a father disowning his son for being gay. Here’s an excerpt:

Don’t expect any further conversations with me. No communications at all. I will not come to visit, nor do I want you in my house.

You’ve made your choice though wrong it may be. God did not intend for this unnatural lifestyle.

If you choose not to attend my funeral, my friends and family will understand.

Read it in full. It’s heartbreaking.

It's Official: Vibrators Are Mainstream

No matter what the politicians do, acceptance of women's sexuality is here to stay.

(Wikimedia Commons/Eva Kröcher)

While jokes about porn and casual references to male masturbation have made their way into mainstream culture, female pleasure—and especially masturbation—has typically been a touchier subject.

The Boy Scouts' Learning Curve

(Flickr/David Blumenkrantz)

Since the Sandusky horror story first broke, we’ve seen a lot of articles exposing horrific behavior from the 1970s and 1980s. Serial abuse at the Horace Mann School. Philadelphia sprtswriter Bill Conlin's long history of molesting children. Surely, there are more to come.

Female Firsts at The 2012 Olympics

A slideshow of women who are taking the year's biggest athletic event by storm.

AP

With the addition of women to the Olympic teams of Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and Qatar, the London Olympics mark the first time that every country participating in the Games is sending at least one female athlete. Many of them are only high school or college students, but they've overcome obstacles ranging from ultraconservative opposition to civil war to participate in the 2012 Olympics. The Prospect takes a look at the women who are breaking ground—and in some cases, national records—in fields from judo to shooting.

Who Said Women Can Have It All?

Remember that Anne-Marie Slaughter article in The Atlantic about a month and a half ago, whose title—"Why Women Still Can't Have It All"—drove feminists bonkers, while the substance nevertheless rang true for roughly 70 gazillion working parents in this country who are doing the impossible every single day? Rebecca Traister proposed forever retiring the phrase "having it all" here, and I chastised the magazine for the framing. But the article's core idea was right, as I wrote at the time: 

Abortion: The New Wedge Issue

The GOP's extremism on reproductive rights gives Democrats an oportunity to pick up moderates.

(Flickr/Paul Weaver)

Last Friday, the Obama campaign released an ad in several swing states attacking Mitt Romney for his stance on abortion. “It’s a scary time to be a women—Mitt Romney is just so out of touch,” says a woman named Jenni. A narrator explains that Mitt Romney opposes requiring insurance coverage for contraceptives, supports overturning Roe v. Wade, and once backed a bill that would outlaw all abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. The ad concludes: “We need to attack our problems, not a woman’s choice.”

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