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 uteri—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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
(Image courtesy of Sunlight Foundation/Ali Felski)
The Sunlight Foundation has a don't-miss examination of the one-hundredth of the top one-percent who give nearly a quarter of all political contributions. Here's what Lee Drutman has to say about their research:
Yes, I know, there was a big speech by a political figure last night. But you know what else? It's the last Friday of summer. Not in the solar calendar, but in our social calendar. Next week we all go back to school and buckle down again. So here's one of the most most admired poems of the late 20th century, a poem that I've said aloud I don't know how many times. It's by Robert Hass, who later became Poet Laureate.
Meditation at Lagunitas
By Robert Hass
All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
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.
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:
The Sikh temple shooting, which left seven dead including the shooter, has left me feeling more shaky than the shooting in Colorado, which seemed more random.
I write that even though the skeleton of these stories is roughly the same. One man with a grudge takes semi-automatic weapons and opens fire at a public or semi-public event where people are gathered for some socially acknowledged purpose—education, work, politics, entertainment, worship. Some people die. Others are wounded. The gunman may or may not have the presence of mind to execute himself. Or he may choose to be martyred, putting himself in line for police to kill him.
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 5Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
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:
E.J. Graff writes on social-justice and human-rights issues, particularly discrimination and violence against women and children; marriage and family policy; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives. She is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center and the author of What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution (Beacon Press, 1999, 2004).