Gender & Sexuality

Ain't Misbehavin'

Ginger White's apparently painful confession of having had a 13-year on-again, off-again affair with Herman Cain seems to have dealt the final blow to his tottering political campaign. I've heard conversations, since, in which political insiders are annoyed about that—believing that adultery should never be what brings a public person down. Here's the idea: Adultery is a private, consensual behavior. While it may violate a person's marriage, that's none of our business as citizens. Sexual harassment , on the other hand, is a public matter precisely because a) it is not consensual, and b) it is employment discrimination against women (or sometimes men), that makes it difficult for a person to earn a living. Violating another person's body and discriminating against them in the workplace is, in this view, completely relevant to governing, because it is an abuse of power that indicates someone may well abuse other power, and doesn't deserve to wield it. (Cf: Senator Bob Packwood : after...

Ask for More

Gentlemen, I would like to ask you to leave the room for a moment. Move along, now. Yes, you too, over there in the corner, I see you! Okay. Ladies: Do you have trouble asking for more money when you're offered wages, salaries, speakers' fees, or any other financial negotiations? Read. This. Now. It's a well-established fact that women are far less likely than men to negotiate for more money. Women Don't Ask was the title of an excellent book exploring the topic. Yes, that's partly because women are more likely to be socialized that we'll be punished for being aggressive in a way that men aren't. But we can still find ways to do it that are effective and natural. There are some great books on the subject. Go to your library or bookstore and find the one that works for you. This isn't the only reason for the yawning gender wage gap . There's sexual harassment (Herman Cain!), occupational segregation, bias against mothers, and other contributors. But this one matters. Teach yourself,...

So You Think You Have Problems?

Even if your parents didn't like who you dated, they didn't send him to Siberia. And while they may haunt you in various ways after their deaths, that haunting can never weigh on you as much as Stalin's overhanging ghost. Do read this sad obituary of someone who, because of her father, could never find a place in life: “Wherever I go,” she said, “here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I will always be a political prisoner of my father’s name.” Yes, the sins of the fathers are indeed visited upon the children, often in very peculiar ways.

Queering Congress

(AP Photo/Russel A. Daniels) Tammy Baldwin, center, and Jared Polis, right, both openly gay members of Congress, answer questions from Jonathan Capehart, left, at the International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco, Saturday, December 5, 2009. Both spoke optimistically about key legislative agenda items sought by LGBT advocates. W hen California teacher Mark Takano ran for Congress 15 years ago, he lost to Republican challenger Ken Calvert by a scant 519 votes. Two years later, things looked more promising. Police had caught Calvert with a prostitute; Takano should have easily clinched a win. But just three months before the election, Ray Haynes—a Calvert supporter in the state assembly—outed Takano as gay. "I said quite clearly I personally don't want a homosexual representing me in Congress," Haynes said at the time. Takano's opponents sent a late mailer, which asked voters in pink letters to consider whether Takano should be "A Congressman for Riverside … or...

Off-Season

The possible demise of the Women's Professional Soccer league leaves soccer-playing girls without a dream to aspire to — and women's soccer in the U.S. without a plan. 

Natasha Kai of Sky Blue FC // Credit: WPS
The future is not looking bright for Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) in the United States. The pro league has dropped down to just five teams with October's disqualification of Florida's bungled magicJack franchise (the old Washington Freedom of the WPS, and WUSA, its predecessor league). At the moment, U.S. Soccer, the sport's governing body in the U.S., is dragging its heels in granting the waiver WPS needs to operate a Division 1 league with fewer than eight teams. For various reasons, national team players like the newly famous and semi-famous Abby Wambach, Lauren Cheney, Alex Morgan, and Hope Solo aren't likely to play in a noncertified or Division 2 league, and discussed new teams in Connecticut and even Detroit aren't likely to manifest before the early December deadline U.S. Soccer has placed on the league . The possible, perhaps even probable, demise of the WPS after three seasons would leave the United States without a pro soccer league and no place for soccer-playing...

Barney Frank Goes Home

The idea that Massachusetts could lose Barney Frank in our congressional delegation never crossed my mind before yesterday, but I'm told that he's been signalling he's ready to go for a couple of years now. The New York Times ' Abby Goodnough had a nice item about his departure announcement, which includes a great kicker about his famous combativeness with reporters and, well, everyone: Mr. Frank’s famous petulance was on display at times on Monday; he dismissed what he called a “gotcha” question from a reporter about his personal investments and, upon learning she worked for Fox News, said, “Quelle surprise.” He also said he looked forward to leaving office so that “I don’t even have to pretend to try to be nice to people I don’t like,” leading another reporter to ask, “Have you ever?” “Some of you may not think I’ve been good at it,” Mr. Frank said. “But I’ve been trying.” I have to say, I am really looking forward to the "Barney Frank greatest hits"—the quips, the tongue-lashings,...

Advertising for Marriage

Rex Wockner, longtime gay reporter, says this is the best marriage equality TV spot he has ever seen. The LGBT newsweekly The Advocate agrees . I haven't seen as many as they have, but it's pretty great. My only thought: it could be even better if there's another one just like it, in which the principal figure is a woman. What do you think?

GOP Candidates: Let's Resegregate the Military!

Around this time last year, the Senate was setting in to tackle various pieces legislation it put off over the course of the year and capitalize on the remaining time before the House majority switched parties in January. Repealing "don't ask, don't tell"—the '90s-era provision that allowed LGBT soldiers to serve in the military so long as they did not reveal their sexual identity—was near the top of the list for Democrats. Rather than immediately repealing the measure after the 2008 election on the grounds that the rule clearly violated civil liberties, Democrats did their best to appease the regulation's proponents and commissioned an impact study, which concluded that there would be no negative impact on military readiness or morale if the law were overturned. With the public backing repeal 77 to 21 percent , it easily sailed through the House, and after some wrangling was passed by the Senate; eight Republicans even joined the Democratic majority to overturn the law. "They will do...

Women in the Boardroom

This morning, Women's E-News reports that since 2003, when Norway required corporate boards to be made up of at least 40 percent women, "plenty of other European countries have followed : Spain: 40 percent by 2015 for market-listed companies or those with more than 250 employees. France: 40 percent by 2017 for market-listed companies or those with more than 500 employees. The Netherlands: 30 percent by 2016 for market-listed companies or those with more than 250 employees. Iceland: 40 percent by 2013 for companies with more than 50 employees. Italy: 30 percent by 2015 for market-listed companies. Belgium: 30 percent by 2016 for big market-listed companies and by 2019 for small- and medium-sized companies." The writer, Nele Feldman, then asks why this hasn't happened yet in Germany, "where women make up 15 percent of the board of directors ." I know what you're thinking: The U.S. must not need such a law, since women already make up more than ... umm... okay, just kidding. According to...

Manning Up

Rick Perry, the man George W. Bush pretended to be, personifies the allure of Texastosterone.

John Cuneo I I n Master of the Senate , the third volume of his massive, still-unfinished biography of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro devotes a memorable paragraph to the great man’s fondness for exhibiting his sexual equipment, which, with characteristic humility, he called “Jumbo.” If he was urinating in a bathroom of the House Office Building and a colleague came in, Johnson, finishing, would sometimes turn to him with his penis in his hand. Without putting it back in his pants, he would begin a conversation, still holding it, “and shaking it, as if he was showing off,” says one man with whom he did this. He asked another man, “Have you ever seen anything as big as this?” Now, I don’t know the slightest thing about Governor Rick Perry’s endowment or whether he’s endowed it with a nickname, but when he entered the Republican presidential race in mid-August, he did so in the same spirit as a Method actor auditioning for the lead in Hung . Flaunting his broad shoulders and the...

A Quick-Step Forward

Dancing with the Stars challenges ballroom dancing's rigid gender roles.

You’d be forgiven if, like me, you spent several years avoiding ABC’s ballroom dancing contest show, Dancing With the Stars . It belongs to that saccharine genre of reality show geared toward “families,” which usually means it’s sterilized and scrubbed until there’s nothing left to either like or be offended by. It’s a cousin of the ready-to-be-euthanized American Idol . Its pen pal is the British show Britain’s Got Talent , which gave us Susan Boyle. This genre has a lot to make up for. But one night not long ago I caught the 13th Season on Hulu. The moment I was hooked came in week three, when J.R. Martinez, a former All My Children actor who had served in the Iraq War. (SPOILER ALERT: Martinez won last night). When he was 19, his Humvee hit an IED. It burned half his face, and on the show he’d already talked about his 32 surgeries. On this episode, he dedicated a Viennese Waltz to all of the soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Watching it, my pasta turned into a soggy...

The Body Politic

Criticism of an Egyptian blogger's nude photos underscore liberal worries about seeming too radical.

Aliaa El Mahdy
As the now historic Tahrir Square filled with protesters over the weekend, the tension between the hope and momentum of the February uprising that ended a 30 year dictatorship and the aggressive, violent military response to a mass civilian demonstration almost one year later was startling. After three days, 23 dead, and over 1500 wounded, it is clear that the transition to a new Egypt is not going to come easily. Surprisingly, the group that has proved to be the most awkward fit into the new Egypt are the youth who engineered the uprising that brought President Mubarak’s reign to an end. Idealistic, peaceful, and largely secular, the success of the Egyptian youth movement became an instant promise of change and possibility. Now, however, their moment in the sun seems to be fading, eclipsed by a military stronghold and the emerging power of the Muslim Brotherhood that was -once outlawed, and is now the main challenge to the military controlled government. With the state under a...

Sandusky's Victim One Bullied out of School

According to Sara Ganim at the Patriot-News , the reporter who first broke the Penn State sexual-abuse story back in March, Sandusky's Victim One has had to leave school because he's being bullied: Officials at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County weren’t providing guidance for fellow students, who were reacting badly about Joe Paterno’s firing and blaming the 17-year-old, said Mike Gillum, the psychologist helping his family. Those officials were unavailable for comment this weekend. The name-calling and verbal threats were just too much, he said. The news media may have moved on, but these kids are going to have to live with the fallout from being assaulted, abused, and blamed for the rest of their lives. I can hardly even speak about how appalled I am about this. Yet I'm not surprised. This is what happens to girls and women who report assaults and rape. Why would it be different for boys and men?

The Internet Miniskirt

Flickr/Ed Yourdon
I've been lucky. There was no Internet back in the 1990s when I was one of the few women writing in the mainstream media about LGBT issues. Hate mail, then, was actual, physical mail, usually sent to a newspaper and forwarded, although one or two writers somehow found my home address. But even those were pretty mild. The usual theme was that I was going to hell; sometimes I got conversion pamphlets, with handy cartoon illustrations of people on fire. I got a couple of letters with disgustingly graphic ideas about my sex life, but those were overshadowed by the religious pamphlets and the psychotics' letters—which you learned to recognize by the tiny handwriting on the envelope, and which ran six to ten pages, and almost always mentioned alien life forms somehow. So when, in the Internet era, I started writing more about women's economic lives—exposing the gross details of sexual harassment, or explaining the violence involved in occupational segregation—I was honestly shocked by the...

Republican Hopefuls Focus on the Family

The country's shaky economic condition has dominated the Republican presidential primary conversation, but social issues will still rule the day for a portion of the GOP's base. This voting bloc may sway the outcome in two of the first three nominating states—Iowa and South Carolina—and poses the greatest threat to Mitt Romney's cakewalk path to gaining the nomination. Social conservatives finally got their first moment in the spotlight at a forum in Iowa over the weekend. The Thanksgiving Family Forum was hosted by Bob Vander Plaats, a major player in Iowa's evangelical scene who played an important role in organizing Mike Huckabee's winning 2008 campaign. All of the major figures of the campaign were in attendance except for Romney and Jon Huntsman. Abortion rights got their first true airing of the campaign, and, to no one's surprise, the candidates jumped out do one another in their opposition to women's rights (of course ignoring that, according to current Supreme Court precedent...

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