Gender & Sexuality

Don't Think of a Hurricane!

So it’s the last week of the summer, and you’re one of the few in the office who hasn’t escaped for vacation, and the Republicans are failing their God-given duty to offer you some entertainment while you wait for things to speed up again? Some nerve they have! Here are some things to read, and not to read, while we wait for the balloons to start dropping. First, do not go reading all those stories about how Isaac is tracking Katrina , the other famous Republican hurricane. (Five years ago, I gave a little talk about the moral values that were not on display during Katrina’s aftermath here .) And don’t start thinking, in your godless way, that if a potential hurricane were threatening the Democratic convention, certain evangelicals would say it was God’s punishment for believing that women and LGBT folks are fully human. We know that this is not the climate’s angry punishment of those who deny that it is changing. So don’t even let yourself start dancing with thoughts like that. The...

The Misogynist Elephant in the Convention Room

(AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Edmund D. Fountain)
(AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Edmund D. Fountain) The floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum undergoing preparation or the 2012 Republican National Convention Three days from now, in the hurricane-lashed hull of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, at the temporal cross coordinates of Congressman Todd Akin’s confession and the Republican Party’s communion, we’re finally going to see what’s truly mesmerized this white, middle-aged, male political conglomerate for the last two generations, and that’s the sexual freedom of women. The language has always been there, but until this presidential election it’s been lip service; next Monday, however, when the Republican platform is approved by the party’s convention, all the fear and loathing that women’s sexuality engenders will be splayed in the aisles before an electorate newly alerted to the party’s unforgiving position on abortion courtesy of Akin’s imprudence. The Akin vocabulary, and the platform’s, may be one of “abortion” and “rape,” but those...

What Is Marriage For?

Is marriage, at its heart, an institution that confines heterosexual sex and ensures that every child is born firmly tied to its biological parents, legally, economically, emotionally, and socially? Or is it an ever-changing institution, constantly battled over, whose rules change dramatically over the centuries? Do same-sex couples belong in the Western vision, because of the revolution in marriage law and philosophy over the past 150 years? Or would adding same-sex couples violate its core purpose? What is the purpose of sex? What's the purpose of civil marriage , as opposed to religious marriage? Maggie Gallagher, of NOM fame (National Organization for Marriage), and I disagree profoundly. We discussed these differences in some detail at bloggingheads. Eyebrows are raised, voices get pointed, but neither of us foam at the mouth, although it gets a little close. Enjoy. Don't miss the point around 41 minutes, where I ask her whether she believes in IVF and donor semen. Answer: no. By...

Hate and Self-Hate

About a month ago, news outlets reported on a truly horrific crime. Charlie Rogers, a former women’s basketball star with the University of Nebraska, told police that three masked men entered her home, tied her up, and carved anti-gay slurs into her skin. I didn’t say anything about it then. Neither did other LGBT bloggers, like AmericaBlog's John Aravosis , who wrote, “It smelled funny to me.” Sure enough, it now appears that she faked the attack . From USA Today : According to police, Rogers said three masked men broke into her home, and that one of them pinned her down while another sliced a cross into her chest, cut the front of her thighs and shins and carved derogatory words in her arms and abdomen. She said they then rolled her onto her stomach and cut her buttocks, the back of her thighs and the back of her right calf. She also said they tried to burn down her house…. … police found a pile of clothes, white knit gloves and a red box cutter on the living room floor after the...

The Future of Marriage Equality

(Vita Generalova)
If you've ever read an article about a gay marriage ballot initiative, you've almost certainly seen an anti-marriage-equality advocate proclaim confidently that every time the question has been on the ballot, "traditional marriage" has won, and this time will be no different. That isn't precisely true—in 2006, Arizona voters rejected an initiative that would have banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions—but very nearly so. Ballot initiatives have banned same-sex marriage in 32 states over the last 15 years, so the "traditional" marriage side has some reason to gloat. But this fall, that run of success could come to a screeching halt. There are four marriage initiatives on the ballot in November, and at the moment it looks very possible, even likely, that on election night three more states will allow all their citizens to marry. We may well have reached an electoral turning point. It has been a very good couple of years for advocates of gay rights. The military's "don't ask, don...

The GOP's Platform Heels

(Flickr/PBS Newshour)
(Flickr/Courtesy of PBS NewsHour) The 2008 Republican National convention Oh, what excitement we’re having for a slow August! (One of my editors, frustrated that no one would return his calls, once called these two weeks “the dead of summer.”) First we learned that Representative Todd Akin believes women have magical powers to repel a rapist's sperm from our uteruses—and the underlying ideas that, as Lindsay Beyerstein yesterday delineated so crisply, "forcible rape is the only real rape" and "women habitually lie about rape," which she notes are two sides of the same coin. Then we learned that the draft Republican Party platform will continue to insist that women should never be permitted—under any circumstances, even rape, even childhood sexual violation, or even if the pregnancy endangers their lives—to refuse to host the comma-sized embryo lodged inside them. What exactly might a world with such laws look like? Consider what happened to a pregnant teenager in the Dominican...

Texas Says "No Thanks" to Women's Health Care

(AP Photo/San Angelo Standard-Times, Patrick Dove)
If you haven't been worn down reading about Todd Akin's bizarre and ignorant views about the female reproductive system, now turn to Texas, where women's uteruses may soon have to move out of state to find health care. Late Tuesday night, a federal court of appeals ruled that Texas can exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program, which provides basic preventative care—like birth control and cancer screenings—for low-income women. The decision has terrifying implications in a state where women's access to health care is already poor. One in four women in Texas is uninsured, and the state also has the third-highest rate of cervical cancer in the country. In Texas, women's health-care clinics serving low-income populations rely on two sources of funding: the Women's Health Program and general state family-planning dollars. Lawmakers have attacked both streams. In 2011, the state legislature slashed state funding for family planning—you know, the thing that prevents...

Rep. Akin and Fun with Fake Facts

Honestly, some days I can’t tell real news from The Onion . Representative Todd Akin’s staggering comment on Sunday about the female body’s amazing ability to reject unwanted sperm actually made my jaw drop. If only it didn’t represent what so many people believe, as Amanda Marcotte explained so clearly here yesterday. The good news is that it flushed those beliefs out into the open. As she said, it’s not a gaffe; it’s an insight into the anti-choice movement’s distrust of women and its ignorance of science. (The fact that Akin’s on the House Science Committee is just one of those hilariously horrifying Onion -style bits of data: Do we really live in a country where a “don’t confuse me with the facts” anti-science ideologue makes policy about … science?) That magical thinking behind Akin's statement arises from an attitude similar—in ideology, not in degree—to that behind honor killings, in which raped girls who refuse to marry their rapists are killed by male relatives for sullying...

The GOP's Crazy Core

The pragmatic Republican establishment (despite the Tea Party, there still is one) is frantic to jettison Representative Todd Akin’s toxic comments on conception and rape, and to quarantine the scientifically-challenged congressman. Much of the commentary has been about how Akin’s clumsiness connects to Republican vulnerability on other issues important to women. But this raises a larger question: Why is the Republican lunatic position politically toxic only on this particular issue? The Tea Party position, after all, has become (or already was) the “mainstream” Republican position on at least a dozen other issues—denying climate change, rejecting evolution, embracing bogus science on homosexuality, destroying regulation of palpable harm to consumers, defending the right of assassins to bring AK-47s to schools, and on and on. So why is this lunatic fringe position different from all other lunatic positions? Here are some conjectures: Almost everyone is a feminist on the subject of...

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: [T]his shooting should remind us all of an important truth: that while much of the political anger in America today lies on the right, there are unbalanced and potentially violent people of all political persuasions. The rest of us need to be careful about hurling accusations that can stir up the crazies. … Those who support gay rights will gain nothing by sticking inflammatory labels on their opponents, many of whom are driven by deeply held religious beliefs. The problem with limiting our speech...

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.” Captured in these words is a constellation of ugly ideas about women, beginning with the ludicrous belief that some rapes are “legitimate,” others fake, and that through some undiscovered mechanism, the female body will prevent implantation in the case of the former. Indeed, his statement betrays the extent to which Akin isn’t concerned with...

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.” For people who don’t follow the anti-choice movement closely, this statement might be a stunner for the simple reason that it makes no biological sense; a rapist’s sperm swims as well as a non-rapist’s. But for those of us who do, it’s no surprise. The myth that “real” rapes don’t result in pregnancy is widespread among anti-choicers—and not just the fringe (Akin, for instance, used to...

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? That fans hate Skyler isn’t up for debate. In a recent poll during the show’s online scrolling service Story Sync, 55 percent of fans disagreed with Skyler’s assertion that she’s Walt’s “hostage” and not his wife, even though in the very episode before he made a speech where he explained to her that he controls...

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. But after my post yesterday, Zack Ford of ThinkProgress and Jeremy Hooper of Good As You called me out on suggesting that we all dial down the rhetoric. Zack tweeted: Are you serious? The rhetoric of equality and inequality are not two sides of the same coin. That comparison is outlandish. This isn't just he-said, she-said. This is one side...

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. Is this what the state of our public conversation has come to? Unstable people on all sides deciding that someone else’s beliefs must be exterminated, that hateful rhetoric must be answered with execution? Corkins was a volunteer at the D.C. LGBT community center, where the executive director was shocked by what the young man did. Here’s what he said, according to Chris Geidner over at BuzzFeed: The suspect in today's shooting, Floyd Corkins II of Virginia, had been volunteering on some weekends at the front desk of The Center, D.C.'s...

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