Gender & Sexuality

White Hot Rage

Sociologist Michael Kimmel explores the history of the aggrieved American male, but fails to capture what drives our age's most prominent discontents: the men's rights movement. 

The most surprising thing about Michael Kimmel’s new book Angry White Men is that the title was still available. We’ve been hit by wave after wave of angry white dudes for decades, from the so-called “silent majority” of the seventies incensed by “forced busing” and braless “women’s libbers,” to your Tea Partier brother-in-law who’s always forwarding terrible jokes about Obama being born in Kenya.

Largely ignoring Tea Partiers and Glenn Beck fans to focus on more extreme examples of angry white manhood, Kimmel, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an influential writer on masculinity, devotes chapters to such charming folks as white supremacists, domestic abusers, and guys who “snap” and shoot up their schools and workplaces. Kimmel does an excellent job in explaining the whys and wherefores of racist skinheads and violent men and manages to write about some pretty damaged and hateful men with a remarkable degree of empathy. But he doesn’t ever get a firm grip on the most zeitgeisty of our zeitgeist’s angry white men: the men’s rights activists. As the proprietor of a blog devoted to chronicling (and mocking) misogyny online, I’ve spent the past three years tracking this aggrieved fringe group, which claims that in our binary gender system, it is men who have gotten the short shrift.

Liz Cheney's Firm Ideological Consistency

Ah, family. The source of our greatest strength, and our greatest frustrations. Ask yourself: Is there anyone in the world who can more easily put you into a blinding, murderous rage than your siblings? Now what if one of those siblings was running for office, and you could stick it to them? If you had a fight—and not just a fight over something trivial like who should wash the dishes, but a real fundamental fight, like whom Mom loved best, or why he crashed your bike when you told him a hundred times that he could only ride it if he was super-careful, or whether you're worthy of equal rights under the law—would you be tempted to take that fight public?

I speak, of course, about Liz Cheney, vice-presidential progeny, proud daughter of the Virginia suburbs—I mean Wyoming, wonderful Wyoming, which has always been home!—and contender for the U.S. Senate from the aforementioned state. According to at least one poll, Cheney is trailing badly in her attempt to unseat conservative Republican Mike Enzi. Even though Cheney is trying to run to Enzi's right, she's been the target of blistering ads from an independent group charging not only that she is soft on gays, but that she has—cover the children's ears —appeared on MSNBC.

The Gay Awakening

While Christian leadership has held fast against the changing tide of public opinion on same-sex marriage, congregations have moved on without them.

AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma

Any other day, Reverend Frank Schaeffer might look out onto the 179 acres of woods at Camp Innabah—a Christian retreat center 40 miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—and stop to ponder God's design in the natural beauty. But today, his mind is on other matters. Mainly, his trial. "There probably won't be an acquittal," says Schaeffer, who faces losing his credentials to preach in the United Methodist Church, the country's largest mainline protestant denomination. "I just hope the penalty will be restorative rather than punitive."

20-Week Abortion Bans: Coming to a City Near You?


If you want to take a plunge into the roiling id of the anti-choice movement, go to Albuquerque. Tomorrow, the half-million residents of New Mexico’s most populous city will vote on a ballot measure that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. Although 13 states have enacted similar laws, if Albuquerque’s measure passes, it will become the first municipality to impose a 20-week abortion ban.

Gillibrand Steps Up for Working Women

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

At the end of September, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her Opportunity Plan promoting progressive economic policies for women. The plan includes Gillibrand’s proposed FAMILY Act. The legislation builds upon the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows certain workers—public-sector employees or private-sector ones who have been employed for at least a year—to take unpaid leave for child care or health reasons.

"Religious Liberty": The Next Big Front in the Culture Wars

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In a historic vote yesterday, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. First introduced in 1994, when the legislation failed to pass the chamber by a single vote, ENDA succeeded in securing enough support from Republicans to pass after adopting an amendment by Rob Portman. The Ohio senator’s amendment strengthens the bill’s existing protections for religious and religiously affiliated organizations, specifying that government entities cannot retaliate against groups exempted from the law.

12 Years a Female Slave—Not Coming to a Theatre Near You

We can't fully understand American slavery and its legacy without mining the diversity of enslaved experience in scholarship as well as film.

AP Images/Fox Searchlight

Once again, America is reckoning with its original sin of slavery—this time with the critically-acclaimed movie, Twelve Years a Slave, which had its nationwide release last week. The movie has been lauded for its uniquely unflinching look at the brutality and inhumanity of slavery. What is not so unique about the unquestionably affecting film is that it tells the story of an enslaved man. When will we see a mainstream, big screen film that explores American slavery from an enslaved black woman’s perspective?

Boob Jam: Keeping Abreast of a Changing Gaming World

The debate over depictions of women in video games has basically boiled down to “big boobs bad, small boobs good!” A few developers hope to change that.

Few things fan the fire in video-game culture quite like boobs.

It started with Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

Oklahoma's Abortion Battle Goes National

AP Images/Peter Morrison

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down a ruling that will help determine how the U.S. Supreme Court handles its next big abortion case. But Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice hasn’t been scheduled for oral arguments just yet. The law in question, which deals with abortion-inducing drugs, was messily written, leaving room for considerable doubt about whether the state of Oklahoma intended to require doctors to follow a particular set of dosage requirements (the state attorney’s argument)—or ban the use of the drugs for abortion entirely (the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice’s argument).

A Good Men’s Rights Movement Is Hard to Find

Only once the production crew taped the microphone on my dress did I have second thoughts. As part of an upcoming 20/20 special, I’d agreed to a sit-down with Paul Elam. Elam is founder and publisher of A Voice For Men (AVFM), one of the main hubs for the burgeoning “men’s rights’ movement.” In a blog post on the organization’s site, he made his feelings clear: “I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage. I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection.”

This was not going to be a productive conversation.

The Supreme Court v. Civil RIghts

The disturbing failure to prosecute alleged rapists in Maryville, Missouri, represents an all-too-common failure of American legal systems. In The Nation, Jill Filipovic has a must-read article highlighting another part of the problem: the Supreme Court. The Court's conservative justices have taken a federal remedy away from sexual-assault victims, in a case that represents a pattern in the Republican war on civil-rights enforcement.

Popping the Pill's Bubble


As the Affordable Care Act creaks into gear—and the Obama administration sends its armies of tech elves into the back end of the website to deal with the glitches—newly insured women can, for the first time, begin to start thinking about what kind of birth control they want, rather than what they can afford. Under Obamacare, all forms of female contraception will be offered without a co-pay to insured women as part of a larger package of preventive care services. The logic behind the “contraception mandate” is so simple it’s hard to believe insurers didn’t come up with it themselves. If women can choose a form of birth control that works for them, without worrying about the cost, they’ll be less likely to get pregnant, saving insurance companies thousands of dollars in sonograms and prenatal vitamins.

Jezebel Grew Up

Nikola Tamindzic

The website Jezebel was born in 2007 out of the idea that the urban (or at least urbane) American woman was a ripe demographic, yearning to read about pop culture, fashion, and sex in a more skeptical way than the package provided by the traditional glossy women’s magazine. “In media, men are not a coherent sect,” Internet entrepreneur and Machiavellian overlord of Gawker Media Nick Denton told The New York Times in 2010. “You go into a magazine store and see rows upon rows of women’s magazines. [With women], there’s a much clearer collective.”

Closing the Gender Gap in the Fed's Hallowed Halls

AP Images/Charles Dharapak

Janet Yellen, President Obama’s superb pick to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve, should have been a shoo-in all along. In fact, it was widely thought this past spring that, as vice chair of the Federal Reserve, she was the most likely candidate to replace Ben Bernanke when his term as chair was scheduled to end early in 2014. But in the months before October 9, when she stood beaming next to President Obama in the White House as he finally announced her as his pick to succeed Bernanke, a curious campaign had emerged to nominate Larry Summers, a close economic advisor to the president, for the position. The Summers push received copious media coverage, reportedly fueled by senior White House advisors.

The She-covery that Wasn't

Press Association via AP Images

When the government shutdown ends and September’s jobs report is released (it was supposed to appear last Friday), careful readers will notice that women are holding a number of jobs either almost or just above their all-time high (which came in early 2008), while men are still millions short of their own pre-crash milestone. Hailing a successful she-covery, however, obscures the fact that women still face an elevated unemployment rate and that the barriers that kept that them from earning as much as men before the recession are still in place. Women are millions of jobs short of where they would be if the economy was at its full potential. Many of the new jobs they have are low-paying. The main causes of the pay gap, like gender segregation in the labor market, have not gone away. That women are gaining jobs is a good thing, but policymakers should not be convinced their work is over.