I realize I’ve been neglecting the blog again. Sorry ’bout that.
Here, have some adorable little girls who would not be stopped from being exactly what they wanted to be for Hallowe’en by something as socially-constructed as gender.
If you haven’t already seen this post by Ashley Miller, you probably should. Especially if you’re under some misapprehension that we’re in a post-racial society just because Obama got 51% of the vote. She didn’t lose her father to disease, or to an accident. She lost her father because her father decided his Southern upbringing was more important than his filial relationship.
I’m sorry to be doing this over the phone, your father has forbidden me from seeing you in person. I’m sorry, he just cannot support your lifestyle anymore, he will not be speaking to you again, he asked me to tell you.
That was my stepmother, the day after Thanksgiving, the day after she discovered I was dating someone. Someone who was not white. Someone who was black. Someone who was sitting in the next room and knew what the phone call was going to be about before it even started.
Your father wants you to know that he still loves you. But you’ve gone too far.
This broke my damn heart.
And what’s more is, I’ve seen something very similar myself when my father all but disowned my sister for being gay. And in a way, it would have been better if he had disowned her, rather than simply harboring a “father knows best” grudge that he brings up every time we communicate with one another. My sister and I are both practically estranged from my father except for the very rare and awkward call. Whenever these calls happen, I cringe inwardly knowing that if conversations venture anywhere near my sister’s “life choices” and his disapproval, I’ll let fly with a rant about how she no more chose her sexuality than I chose my eye color.
And yes, I know that elides a lot of the argument of how much sexuality is a choice. But frankly, when someone talks about how they disapprove of someone else’s lifestyle choices, it damn well ought to be a lifestyle choice you have total control over. Who you love is not a choice you can truly make, any more than you can choose to be convinced about something. What you choose to accept as true without ever examining critically, on the other hand — especially if it’s a revulsion to a whole class of people so well internalized that all you can do to defend said revulsion is to preface your otherwise blatantly hateful statements with “I’ve got no problems with the coloreds or the the queers BUT” — that’s a choice.
You can choose to examine that loathing of miscegenation or of homosexuality. Or you can choose to lose a person who represents a valuable part of your life over your dogged determination to stick with your “traditions” or “values” because of how you were raised. It’s your call to make — to decide that your daughter’s happiness is expendable and must be subsumed into her strict obedience to the social mores of your older generation.
You may only get to make that call once, though. And you will both be the poorer for it.
By which I mean, Ronald A. Lindsay advocates losing the use of the word “balls” to mean “courage” in everyday conversation. And I couldn’t agree more.
Many people, including many skeptics, atheists, and humanists, use the term “balls” or its myriad equivalents as a metaphor for courage, determination, resolve or similar attributes. I suggest we should stop using such terms, for a pretty obvious reason: one doesn’t need testicles to be courageous, determined, or resolute.
Our close blog-buddy DuWayne Brayton has been published in a philosophy publication covering morality called Moral Relativism Magazine. I can only assume the purpose of the publication is to retake a label that the evangelical crowd has turned into a slur, considering that moral relativism is far more nuanced than “we should do whatever we want because all morals are relative”. DuWayne sent along a preview copy of the article, so I could pimp his writing, and I figure there’s no harm in giving you a sample of the first two paragraphs so you can gauge whether you’re interested in the full thing.
A mere fifty years ago it was generally accepted that people who had different colored skin getting married was so immoral it was illegal in most states in the U.S. Even today, the few states allow same sex couples to marry and such marriages aren’t recognized by the U.S. federal government. Less than fifty years ago people who engaged in homosexual sex could be imprisoned in several U.S. states. In Kenya, Uganda and Nairobi homosexuality can still be cause for imprisonment, in some cases inducing a life sentence. Homosexuality is a capital crime in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Nigeria. Most people in most cultures worldwide consider monogamy the default assumption for romantic relationships. Even many atheists find polyamorous relationships morally ambiguous at best.
Yet there has been miscegenation since people of different colors have been in contact with one another. Homosexuality would not be illegal or otherwise frowned upon if it had not existed for all of history in a myriad of cultures. Polygamy and polyamory, not to mention the assumption of cheating have been accepted in innumerable cultures throughout history. All of these also occur and have occurred in cultures that generally consider them immoral. While it can be argued that every culture has ethical frameworks, parts of which are considered moral axioms to the majority of individuals within that culture, it is absurd to assume that everyone in a given culture accepts all of that framework as moral truth.
The full magazine is $8 per issue, which is good considering it’s a relatively (heh) new and self-published startup providing actual physical copies for each issue, operating primarily through Lulu. The best part is, it’s a paid gig for DuWayne, and the more people buy this magazine and support their efforts, the more likely it will stick around to provide a revenue stream for DuWayne and other philosophers like him. If you’ve got the change and are interested in this sort of thing, it might be worth your while to support these folks.
In 2009, during the Silence is the Enemy campaign raising awareness about rape and the rape culture that leads to drastic underreporting by victims of all genders, Greg Laden made a particularly bold claim in a post wherein he postulated a “rape switch” where people exposed for long durations to rape cultures like that of wartorn Congo might have a switch flipped making them suddenly capable of rape. I thought it was a little more complicated than that, something more like probability bubbles on a multidimensional matrix, making one more or less likely capable of rape. I wrote out my modification of his hypothesis in my post Is There a Rape Proclivity Bubble on a Multi-axis Quadrant? I had intended the post to be floated for the purposes of collecting dissenting opinions and refining the argument thereafter, but save for our good friend DuWayne Brayton, I didn’t have any serious takers.
Well, save for one. A guy by the name of Rystefn, a self-proclaimed “performance artist” (read: long-con troll) who’d once faked his own death on Skepchick’s comment areas. His objections could be summarized as being the same tired MRA arguments you’ve heard a dozen times now regarding how evil and horrible and delusional it is for a person to attempt to protect themselves by considering every stranger a sort of “Schrodinger’s Rapist” — though more specifically, how terribly misandrist it was when women braced themselves thus against strange men. The fight raged on and on in multiple places: at Almost Diamonds and Greg’s blog primarily, but near the end of that particular blog debacle, on my own blog. He privately attempted to claim another instance of performance art, that he was simply trolling for the purposes of raising awareness and building up hits on our various blogs, thus increasing the amount of money we could contribute to the Silence campaign. My blog and Almost Diamonds did not make any ad revenue at the time, however. The fact that we had no ads leads me to believe his trolling was a form of metatrolling, where his “admission” to me in private was merely an attempt to bait me into some sort of trap, which backfired spectacularly when I outed him publicly for his mendacity almost immediately.
Anyway, after making some changes to reflect some ways I’d had my mind changed on a number of border subjects, I reposted the argument here to see if anyone would seriously like to poke holes in the post, but nobody made any such attempt. In honor of Stephanie’s recent work on the topic of rape, and Greg’s laudable attempt to resurrect the Silence campaign, I’m reposting this again here at FtB, where it’ll hopefully get a larger audience and better discussion. Some of my understanding of psychology has since improved, and my thoughts on the subject of rape and privilege have been significantly fleshed out in the interim. So, take your best shot, please and thanks!
Before I start on this post, nothing I say here is intended to be a slight on people fighting for equality from the perspective of other genders or sexes. I intend this as an acknowledgement of the many ways that men are disadvantaged by the same societal mores that disadvantage women in other, additionally serious (and in many instances more serious) ways. I am a feminist as well as an egalitarian, and I approach these issues with those ideals as my starting point. This is in no way an attempt at drawing a false equivalency between the issues the various genders and sexes encounter.
The patriarchal society we find ourselves in today is a significantly eroded one, where the patriarchy finds itself under attack from almost every angle, but it remains a patriarchy still. Thanks to the monumental efforts of the feminist and civil rights movements, not to mention the recent secular pushback against religious authoritarianism and its adherents’ less than progressive ideals about women’s role in society, what was once a society that prided itself on its white male hegemony is now a more pluralistic one, though far from egalitarian. This patriarchy still exists, and societal pressure for men and women to conform to specific gender roles still has the very inertial effect on forestalling progressive change.
And while these gender roles have many powerful side-effects with regards to women and their sexual self-determination, men are not wholly insulated from the splash damage. In fact, I strongly believe that these gender roles are largely responsible for all of the gender related issues that all sexes and genders experience today.
Back on Talk Like a Pirate Day, our friend sinned34 posted the following, which ought to give any Canuck pause, all pirate talk aside.
Seems th’ Cons in power here been schemin’ wit’ the Prez o’ them United States to allow the Queen’s navy to cross the border soutwards, in return for allowin’ the longish arm o’ the Amerikin law to reach up in ta Canada, unner the guise o’ chasin’ down terrists an’ protectin’ the public from varyin’ forms o’piracy. He s’posedly be doin’ this inna hopes of convincin’ that Republikin lap dog Obama to open up th’ border to more trade. But the way the Yanks been tossin’ their freedoms and due process overboard to the sharks be makin’ me fear they be exportin’ even more of the US-type prison system up northwards.
To translate that for those of you who don’t speak Piratese (for shame!), Harper plans on allowing cross-border police raids. Ostensibly it’ll allow our police and/or RCMP to cross the border to the States, but given the levels of crime between our particular jurisdictions, all we’ll likely end up with is the States raiding us. So much for our more liberal laws — between this and the omnibus legislation looking to turn Canada’s copyright laws into DMCA Mk. II, they’ll all be forfeit shortly. Sinned continues:
Stephen Harper has been working to introduce minimum sentencing rules and increase the penalties for drug offenses, especially targeting cannabis, and he’s building more prisons, so one can expect that he’s planning more legislation to fill those prisons. However, due to the general Canadian acceptance of cannabis use (a 2009 Angus Reid poll had 53% of Canadians agreeing with the statement, “The use of marijuana should be legalized”), it might cost him politically if he were to pursue a drug war with too much zeal.
If the Conservatives can’t convince Canadians to embrace the war on drugs, the next best thing would be to almost literally import the American war on drugs into the Great White North. The ability of American drug enforcement to enter Canada while investigating drug crime is the simplest way to bring US drug law across the border.
He’s absolutely right in this assessment. The last set of laws that were passed to combat terrorism was used primarily for domestic cannabis cases. We’re not talking about those evil drug dealers whose money supposedly funds terrorists, either — the international drug cartels that have gained their power through the very demonization of their product. We’re talking about the local asshole growing a few plants in his basement and getting thrown in jail for a long time for possession with intent to sell.
The War on Some Drugs has, traditionally, not been about the drugs themselves at all. It has, as near as I can figure, been an effort to turn jails into a moneymaking scheme. When people call for legalization and taxation, I can’t help but chuckle. See, there is far too much money in turning an entire class of citizens into criminals in a culture with for-profit prisons; in driving a market for a specific, popular and generally harmless* recreational pharmaceutical, that happens to grow like a weed, underground. Prohibition on alcohol was too much for the system to handle, and the shock of it turned just about everyone into a criminal, in such a way that the “war on drugs” was not just a figure of speech but an actual, violent war between organized crime and police. Too many innocents were caught in the crossfire. Prohibition of marijuana seems to be a “just right” amount of war, generating enough “criminals” to warrant megajails and the likes.
This is the culture Harper evidently wants to import to Canada. This is how he shuffles the war on some drugs into Canada by the side door. Once Canada becomes a fiefdom to the States’ drug laws, we’re at the top of the slippery slope, and if anything called for a slippery slope argument, this is it. We’re about to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the war on drugs whether Canada cares about cannabis use or not.
* There is a large cohort study suggesting that cannabis increases risk of psychosis. I’m not going to dismiss this study outright, but it involves self-reporting, and does not control for previous family history of psychosis, each of which is a large enough flaw that I’d like to see independent verification.
I love the “It Gets Better” campaign, started by newspaper personality Dan Savage. The message he has to deliver though, that bullying and oppression that you might experience by coming out as gay or transsexual or any other non-hetero orientation will eventually wane as others mature and learn to embrace plurality, might be… shall we say, inaccurate? Via sinned34′s blog:
President Obama to gay victims of bullying: “It gets better.”
Family Research Council to those same kids: “No, it doesn’t, you goddamned queers!”
Yeah. Really. Hardly any exaggeration there.
I honestly wish I was joking about this, but here’s the mailing the Family Research Council sent out recently.
EGADS! A homosexual extremist! I fully expect Dan Savage to strap on his pink Hello Kitty AK47 and bomb churches with fragmentation grenades shaped like dildos now! And I’m sure his terrorist attire would match his pumps, too! Seriously, people on the right throw around the word “extremist” to mean “people who advocate things that we don’t believe in”. It’s a pejorative that’s lost all meaning today, such that when you point to religious fundamentalists who stockpile guns and bomb buildings and call them extremists, the word just doesn’t capture their extremism any more.
The Family Research Council is not an extremist organization by any stretch of the imagination, but they are a religiously motivated single-issue political organization built around the idea that the only Biblically-acceptable family unit is one of man and wife, and any other family unit is evil and immoral. The people making up any non-heteronormative family unit are equally evil and immoral according to these chuckleheads.
Homosexuality, despite all the bloviating by these fools, is probably genetic.
The Family Research Council is therefore casting as a “moral failing” something that these children can no sooner control than they can control their handedness or hair color. Sure, you could train yourself to write with your right hand despite your natural inclinations; sure, you could dye your hair; but neither action will change your genetics. The fact that some really old book can be interpreted as saying that homosexuals are evil, doesn’t mean that anyone with that particular confluence of genes is actually evil. There’s nothing immoral (in the sense of “objectively harmful to society as a whole”) for people to be attracted to whomever they’re genetically predisposed to be attracted to. The only argument I’ve ever seen that might make it objectively harmful to society is one where you extrapolate out homosexual behaviour to the populace as a whole — if everyone were to switch to homosexuality, the human race would stop breeding and would die after a generation.
But that’s not what anyone’s suggesting here; what we’re suggesting is that we accept that proportion of the population whose genes direct them to be attracted to the same sex. We’re suggesting that you just live and let live. Love who you want to love. Tolerate who doesn’t love what you love. Be intolerant of people who are intolerant of others for stupid reasons like what genes they happen to have. Treat homophobes the same way as we’d treat someone who called being left-handed immoral and sinful. It is incumbent upon us to achieve a more perfect morality than the morality handed down by some goat-herders in the Middle-East who knew less about genetics than they did about the shape of the Earth or the orbits of the planets. We’re better than those morals. We deserve better than those morals.
Unless we can stomp out this bigotry, this intolerance, this hateful adherence to really old prejudices, then it might not get better. It’s up to us. Do we want it to Get Better? Because if we let bullshit like this slide, then it might not get better after all.