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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
As a kid I consumed fiction like a ravenous beast. I swallowed whole whatever came my way, from Tolstoy to Heinlein, Michener to Eugene O'Neill. My fiction addiction kept up for years, dragging me through Trollope, Muriel Spark, Colson Whitehead, Dickens, Murakami, Russell Banks, Christina Stead, Alice Munro, W.G. Sebald, Chang-Rae Lee, and hundreds of others. I have always profoundly wanted to see the world through everyone else's eyes: What does it feel like to be someone else, in another part of the world, facing the unimaginable? Since most people have trouble articulating their deepest experiences, even reporters don't necessarily get to hear what others feel. Great fiction has always seemed the best way to peer into others' joys and horrors.
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:
So Aaron Sorkin is redoing The West Wing, but this time in a newsroom. The West Wing redid the Clinton administration, but better, with everyone making the right decisions for the right reasons despite their charming and lovable personal failings. In the same way, HBO's Newsroom gives us a set of high-minded, hyper-educated, East Coast elite liberals (in some cases disguised as Republicans, snort) play-acting their way through the past two years, but—with the benefit of hindsight—presenting it the way it should have been given to us the first time around. The BP oil spill is recognized instantly as a major crisis, and is announced as such, with no one worrying about being sued.
As some of you know, Frank Kameny was the real thing, one of the great trailblazers in the American gay-rights movement. In the 1950s, he worked as an astronomer for U.S. Army map service—until they discovered he was gay, and fired him. He spent his life fighting back, and by the time he died last October, he had been vindicated. He was in the room when President Barack Obama signed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He had a Washington, D.C. street named after him. How do you top that?
Yes, folks, it's another Tigger day. Last week, while I was talking about how straight people changed marriage so that same-sex couples now belong in it, the new French government announced that it will gender-neutralize the entrance requirements for marriage early next year, which will also grant same-sex couples full adoption rights. That would mean that twelve nations marry same-sex pairs, plus some states and provinces scattered hither and yon. In historical order, that would include The Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2003, in some provinces; 2005, nationally), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), and Denmark (2012).
I've talked in the past about how unconscious bias works—and how it's an aspect of some very healthy parts of our brains and bodies. For very good reasons, we all navigate by intuition, habit, and practiced behaviors every single day. Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer have written about these neurological facts beautifully and well. Every parent knows how time-consuming it is to have to articulate and teach habits we don't even realize we navigate by. Walk on the right and pass on the left. The fork goes here and the knife and spoon go there. It's not polite to say that in public. You can't take that until you pay. Turn your head this way to breathe while you're swimming. That truck means that person delivers the mail.
Last week, I laid out some of my ideas about what is and is not radical about same-sex marriage, boiling down a few of the chief concepts I've argued in public over the past 15 or so years. Maggie Gallagher, chief nemesis of the marriage-equality movement, referred to one of those three posts at The Corner, National Review's group blog. In response, I noted that we agree, in small part, that allowing same-sex pairs to marry continues to nudge the meaning of the institution in the direction of separating sex and diapers.
Late on Tuesday, when just about everyone had already left for their Fourth of July celebrations, the Department of Justice announced that it was asking the Supreme Court to take two DOMA lawsuits, promptly. The first was no surprise: You know that the First Circuit already, very cautiously, declared in the Massachusetts cases (Gill v. OPM) that DOMA’s Section 3 was unconstitutional. That’s the section that says that, for federal purposes, marriage is between one man and one woman—and therefore that the United States will refuse to recognize any state’s decision to marry same-sex pairs.
The Fourth of July makes me absurdly happy. One of my earliest memories is of holding my parents’ hands as we walked to the football stadium at the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana, for the Fourth of July fireworks. I recall reaching upward for their hands and making them swing me repeatedly, as toddlers do. While we “walked,” they told me that for my third birthday—which comes in July, the very best month in which to be born—I was getting a baby brother or sister. I was beyond thrilled. This was at the tail end of the baby boom, and every other kid in that graduate student housing complex had a little brother or sister; of course I wanted one too.
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).