Gender & Sexuality

Olympic Girls Go Bad-Boy

Women at the world's top sporting event are shaking off pressure to be feminine in the public eye.

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team striker Abby Wambach (Twitter/@AbbyWambach)

Athleticism in women has generated social unease going back at least as far as the Greek myth of Atalanta, the princess who refused to marry a man who couldn’t beat her in a footrace and was finally conquered by a “hero” who beats her by cheating. Women in sports flout the feminine not only by being competitive, but by using their bodies for an end other than sex and child-bearing.

Pro-Life Sentences


Dissenting in Gonzales v. Carhart, the 2007 case that upheld a federal ban on "partial birth" abortion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg charged that the majority "refuses to take [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey ... seriously." This inclination, not surprisingly, has filtered down to the lower federal courts as well. Two recent cases conspicuously refuse to take a woman's reproductive rights seriously, and indeed one judge failed to apply Casey at all.

The Graceful Ghetto of Women’s Sports

We've become accustomed to seeing female athletes compete in events like gymnastics and swimming, but we're far less comfortable when they play "men's sports."

(Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy)

This year marks the first time that the Olympics will feature women’s boxing, news that heartens feminists and strikes fear in the hearts of men made in the mold of Jennifer Lopez’s (fictional) abusive husband in Enough. One would think that female competition in a blood sport like boxing would mean that we’d gotten a smidge closer to the elusive equality of the sexes—and in some ways, we have—but the recent controversy over what women should wear while boxing shows we’re not quite there yet. 

Don't Fil-A the First Amendment

(Flickr/Alfonso Surroca)

As established by the traditions of Chicago politics, aldermen can assert their privilege to deny permits to businesses who want to do business in their wards. This week, Alderman Joe Moreno said that that he would invoke that privilege to deny a permit to the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, which is seeking to open a second franchise in the Windy City.

Sally Ride's Right to Remain Silent

Astronauts of the STS-7/Challenger mission (Wikimedia Commons/NASA)

I’ve been startled by certain gay men who have petulantly demanded that it wasn’t enough for Sally Ride to be an astounding feminist hero, a role model for all girls; she also should’ve stood up for the gays. Andrew Sullivan (and others) had a tantrum about her postmortem announcement, as if coming out were the central patriotic duty of everyone who loves someone of the same sex:

Let's Not Make Sally Ride a Gay Icon

Let’s remember her for what she cared about most—women in the sciences.

(Wikimedia Commons/National Archives and Records Administration)

A single line in Sally Ride’s obituary has caused a lot of fuss over the last day—the fact that she spent the last 27 years of her life with another woman. It’s a bit of a shame that the buzz of the public revelation has taken away from what it seems Dr. Ride would have preferred her legacy to be: pushing young women into careers in math and science.

RIP, Sally Ride

Sally Ride (Wikimedia Commons/National Archives and Records Administration)

Yesterday, the day before Amelia Earhart’s 115th birthday, Sally Ride joined the skies for a final time. At 61, she died of pancreatic cancer—a horrible disease. Back in 1983, it was thrilling to watch her smash the American gender barrier as she zoomed into space. When she headed off into the final frontier, it was not as it was with the subordinate Lieutenant Uhuru on the Enterprise—the closest analogue there was at the time—but as an equal astronaut. Ride strode up to the Challenger as if she belonged there—which, of course, she did. She had degrees in physics, astrophysics, and English—what an underachiever! When she saw a NASA newspaper ad seeking astronauts, she applied and got the job.

This American Darkness

(Wikimedia Commons/David Levy)

If there’s anything that illustrates the term “kneejerk liberal,” it would be the immediate assumption, this weekend, that the Batman shootings required a national debate about gun control. As has been reported elsewhere, Friday’s “assailant” (I profoundly respect Steve Erickson’s refusal to do him the honor of using his name) used not just a semiautomatic rifle, gas canisters, a rifle, and a pistol in a theater, but also jury-rigged bombs to boobytrap his own apartment.

More on the Boy Scouts

While I'm in shock over the Batman shootings (check out Garance Franke-Ruta's painfully accurate outline of how this will play out in public discourse), here are some further thoughts from around the web on the Boy Scouts' decision to keep out the homos:

Merit Badge for Silence

As with the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the Boy Scouts' position on homosexuality denies gay people the basic right to self-definition.

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

On Tuesday, after a two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) "emphatically reaffirmed" its current ban on "open or avowed homosexuals"—a restriction that applies not only to Scout leaders, but to Scouts as well.

Sharia Scare in Tennessee

(Courtesy of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association)

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just outside Nashville, the Muslim community won a hard-fought victory Wednesday. After a two-year legal battle that inflamed anti-Islamic sentiment across the state, a federal judge ruled that a new Islamic community center could get the permits necessary to open. Elsewhere in the state, however, Muslim residents got a cold reminder this week of just how much prejudice exists around them.

Parenting without a Net

For god’s sake, let’s give Marissa Mayer, the incoming Yahoo CEO, a break. Good for her that she’s a little “gender blind” and didn’t notice that she was the only female in her computer science courses. Social cluelessness goes with being a code-focused nerd. No, she’s not a feminist, she doesn’t understand feminism, and she doesn’t have the right prescriptions for all women. But maybe we could decide, for a change, that she doesn’t stand for all women and for feminism as a whole, any more than Scott Thompson—her immediate predecessor in Yahoo’s churning top spot—stood for all men?

What Poor Women Need Is ... Marriage?


For several years, sociologists and demographers have been discussing a new socioeconomic division in this country: the widening family divide between the highly educated and everyone else. On one side are those who get at least a bachelor's degree—or wait even longer—before they marry and have children. On the other side are those without a college education who have children—early and often—and have a series of partners (with or without marriage) who may or may not be related to their children. In the second group, an unexpected pregnancy may interrupt the woman's education; sometimes she wasn't going on anyway. 

The Boy Scouts Get It Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Wikimedia Commons/Norman Rockwell

David Crary at the Associated Press just broke the news that "the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays." A month ago, when I wrote that it was almost time to return to the Boy Scouts because they were going to dump the policy, I apparently placed too much faith in those who wanted to reform the organization. I'm told, so far, that the LDS church (hmm, don't we know a prominent public figure who is Mormon?) and the Southern Baptists have a lot of power internally, and that they blocked any movement into the 21st century.

Penn State Redux


How in the world did Penn State allow assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to molest children—sometimes on its grounds—for 11 years without notifying authorities? That's the question the institution hired former FBI director Louis Freeh's consulting firm to investigate in-depth. This morning, Freeh's task force released its independent review—which is just as damning as you can imagine, saying that all the key people, Paterno included, "repeatedly concealed critical facts" to protect the institution rather than the victims. Here are the key findings from the executive summary: