“Introduces”

Nancy French has a warning for parents about a new kids’ movie: “ParaNorman Introduces Children to Homosexuality”.

However, the second scene involves one of the subplots. Norman’s sister has a crush on a kid she tries desperately to impress throughout the movie. After she fails to turn his head, she finally asks him out.

“Sure,” he responds. “You’re gonna love my boyfriend. He’s like a total chick-flick nut.”

My friend saw the film in a “red state” and she reported that “you could hear the gasps in the theatre from parents” at the unexpected line. “I should have known something was up when the theatre manager made a huge disclaimer and offered refunds if we did not like the movie,” she wrote.

As a resident of a reddish state, I almost want to go see this movie just to witness the reactions. It must have been incredible to watch the sudden failure of these parents’ homophobic delusion that they can isolate their children from any knowledge of same-sex relationships. I find it implausible that the film actually “introduces” children to homosexuality itself; that would suggest that all these kids had never once encountered the concept of homosexuality before they saw ParaNorman, which is vastly unlikely.

I have no sympathy for these parents – while I’m sure they’re trying to raise their kids in a way they believe to be right, just as we are, the problem is that these people want our son’s classmates and friends to believe that his moms simply don’t exist. These are the people who would protect their children from being “introduced to homosexuality” by keeping them away from us. Say what you will about our family, but we don’t keep our children ignorant of the fact that homophobes, Republicans and religious people exist. We don’t even try. Why would we? These are concepts that they are, unfortunately, going to encounter in their lives – and likely sooner rather than later, thanks to people like Nancy French who think our truth is something their children can’t handle.

We can’t teach our kids that something is right or wrong if they don’t know what it is. I don’t know how these parents intend to do it – the statement “homosexuality is wrong” is meaningless to someone who you’ve prevented from knowing that homosexuality exists. By swaddling their children in ignorance, they’ve placed themselves in the double bind of expressing their disapproval of something without letting their kids know just what it is they disapprove of. Either they must finally address the topic they’re so reluctant to talk about, or attempt to avoid any mention of the subject at all until a movie like ParaNorman blows the whole thing wide open (and not a moment too soon).

William Bigelow of Breitbart.com also objects:

It’s a time-honored technique of the gay community to hide the fact that a character is gay until the audience has developed a real affinity for him/her, then catch the audience off-guard by divulging that the character is gay. …

If they really were “brave” they’d announce from the start that Mitch was gay and see just how many parents would take their children to see this movie.

Of course, this just mirrors how coming out often proceeds in reality: being LGBT usually isn’t the first thing you learn about someone, even if you know them well. And when this particular facet of who we are comes to light, the homophobe takes umbrage at the revelation that upends their previous assumptions. After all, they consented to love or raise or befriend or laugh at a straight cis person – not some queer. It’s remarkable how much this resembles the classic “pieces of flair” argument that transgender people should always disclose their history to romantic partners so that they can be rejected outright just for being trans. Bigelow takes it further, saying what even homophobes rarely state openly: that members of invisible minorities are obligated to announce their status in advance, so that bigots can simply hate them before getting to know them or developing any attachment or connection to them as individuals. It doesn’t sound quite so reasonable now, does it?

Proof that God loves Southern Decadence

Joe Kovacs of WorldNetDaily repeats a familiar argument about hurricanes and gay people:

The arrival of Hurricane Isaac exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina blasted New Orleans has some people wondering if there’s more to it than random chance, and suggesting the popular homosexual festival Southern Decadence may be part of a judgment from God.

“A hurricane hitting a celebration of decadence … twice in seven years. What are the odds?” asks Robin Cox, a lifelong Gulf Coast resident.

“Does it seem God has it in for New Orleans?” adds Mary Starkey. “Just contemplating why this has happened twice in seven years at exact same time of year.”

Southern Decadence has been a yearly event since its inception in 1972. Over the past 40 years, it’s been delayed or canceled twice because of hurricanes. That’s 2 years out of 40. The other 38 times, it was not affected by hurricanes. So, if we can leap all the way to concluding that God has twice thrown a hurricane at New Orleans because of a popular homosexual festival, can’t we also conclude that for the other 38 years, God has intentionally been moving tropical storms away from New Orleans so that this festival can proceed unhindered? Why is it that a 2-in-40 occurrence is taken as indicative of God’s stance on Southern Decadence, but something that’s happened 38 out of 40 times means nothing? Sure, the central assumption is bullshit, but even if we do accept it, reality still doesn’t seem to agree with WorldNetDaily’s conclusions. As usual.

We must protect the sanctity of civil unions!

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a notary has approved a civil union between one man and two women, to the outrage of religious groups:

Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues has said the man and two women should be entitled to family rights.

She says there is nothing in law to prevent such an arrangement. …

But lawyer Regina Beatriz Tavares da Silva told the BBC it was “absurd and totally illegal”, and “something completely unacceptable which goes against Brazilian values and morals”.

Ms da Silva, who is president of the Commission for the Rights of the Family within the Institute of Lawyers, says the union will not be allowed to remain in place.

Some religious groups have also voiced criticism of the move.

It’s amusing to see people rushing to the defense of a certain narrow interpretation of civil unions, much like how they’ve tried to “defend” marriage from LGBT people who want to get married. The key difference, which makes such efforts even more absurd, is that civil unions are a completely new legal invention intended to keep gay people out of the institution of marriage. There is no tradition or history behind them, so there’s no traditional or historical concept of “civil unions” for people to defend. They’ve only been available in Brazil for 8 years. Is that really long enough for Brazilians to have developed lasting, concrete and coherent “values and morals” pertaining to civil unions, values and morals which must be protected and upheld? I highly doubt it. Civil unions do not come with the same esteem and universal recognition as marriage, precisely because of their recent creation in what was purely an act of discrimination.

Really, if you’re going to create a new legal category to segregate families which don’t consist of one (legally recognized) man and one (legally recognized) woman, how can you be surprised when that category includes families that don’t consist of one man and one woman? If you didn’t want these commitments to be recognized as marriages, then why insist they must maintain some degree of resemblance to your ideal of marriage? By all means, keep pretending that secular, legal marriage is the exclusive property of your religion and must be protected by ensuring that it exactly matches your particular faith’s concept of marriage. Such a claim can be handily dispatched on its own. But if that’s the line of argument you choose to pursue, you don’t get to pretend that your religion also owns the new “marriage-lite” that was created to divert the unworthy from your precious institution.

NOM cultural director: “The church doesn’t believe in gay and lesbian people”, just… gay and lesbian people

Carlos Maza recently went undercover at the National Organization for Marriage’s student “leadership” conference, and uncovered a treasure trove of religious hate and pseudoscientific ignorance. In addition to claims that gay relationships are “inherently unstable”, repeated citations of the debunked Regnerus study, and blanket dismissal of LGBT websites because they have gay hook-up and pet grooming ads, Maza heard this bizarre idea from NOM’s cultural director, Thomas Peters:

When it comes to “gay” and “lesbian,” my personal view, and I think Dr. Morse has a more optimistic and stronger view than I do on this one in terms of the adjective question, I largely tend to think that if the adjective question, if the descriptor question becomes a distraction from the point you’re trying to make, it’s hard to fight that one. And so, as a Catholic, the church doesn’t believe in gay and lesbian people, per se, in the way they do. “Born that way,” all this kind of stuff. What they believe is there are people born with deep-seated same-sex attraction. So as a Catholic a term which I use is SSA, same-sex attraction, and if you look at, it’s also with people who have moven [sic] out of the gay lifestyle into saying “I was a person and am a person with same-sex attraction.”

You see, it’s not that people are born attracted to the same sex. It’s just that they’re born with attractions to the same sex. Nobody is actually born being attracted to the same sex, except when they are. They’re not “born that way”, but they are born that way. Huge difference. Thanks for the explanation, NOM!

 

Why won’t God make hurricanes disappear?

I’m a bit of a weather enthusiast, and moving to Florida has given me the opportunity to experience something we don’t have in Illinois: hurricanes, and their less intense cousin, tropical storms. Not very many have threatened the United States this season, but that’s recently changed with the development of tropical storm Isaac. We’re far enough inland that we won’t get much more than some wind and rain, but others won’t be so lucky. While Isaac was initially predicted to hit the west coast of Florida, it’s now headed directly for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Reverend Jesten Peters of Keys of Authority Ministries thinks she had something to do with this. As part of the Pray Tampa Bay initiative, which works for “the Cleansing, Protection and Revival of Tampa Bay”, Peters has organized prayers for tropical storm Isaac to move away from Tampa and the Republican National Convention. Peters told the Christian Broadcasting Network:

We have had lots and lots of people praying around the clock that it would move, and after you watch from the very beginning where they were saying it was coming, and now where they say it is going, then it has really moved out of the way for us, and we appreciate God doing that and moving it for us.

Indeed, Isaac did move. Instead of striking Florida as a tropical storm and rapidly dissipating over land, it’s now charging across the Gulf of Mexico and intensifying into a hurricane that will almost certainly hit New Orleans.

While I doubt anyone was hoping that Louisiana would be damaged by a hurricane, the limitations of prayer and those who use it are especially obvious in a case like this. Is there any reason that Peters and her team haven’t been praying for every tropical storm to veer out to sea instead of making landfall? Are Tampa and the RNC her only concern, and not the 19 people who were killed by Isaac in Haiti? Or, if they didn’t get their bright idea until the storm was already here, why not just pray for it to disappear or go back the way it came? If God can nudge a hurricane away from Republicans, why can’t he destroy it, or make it go backwards?

But Peters and her group did not pray for any of this, because they knew it wouldn’t happen. A storm shifting from its predicted track is nothing special – it happens all the time whether you pray to your gods or not. But a complete absence of tropical storms threatening the United States is highly unlikely; even in the least active season on record, 22 people in Texas were killed by a hurricane. And the sudden dissipation or reversal of a rapidly intensifying tropical cyclone is practically impossible. Does Peters believe there’s any real risk that New Orleans might pray hard enough to send the hurricane back to Tampa? Obviously not.

These are things that might actually require some supernatural intervention, yet this is exactly what Pray Tampa Bay did not ask for. Instead, they only asked God for something that would be fully explainable in terms of natural phenomena. I think they know exactly what’s going on here: they don’t honestly expect that the laws of nature will be suspended in an obvious and visible fashion, even if they do ask God for it. They’re just looking for any sign that could possibly indicate that their prayers actually did anything.

But in trying to make God responsible for a storm having shifted, they’ve put themselves in an awkward situation: they now have to deal with the ugly implications of the unavoidable fact that it still has to go somewhere. Really, was no one in New Orleans also praying for the storm to miss them, or was the RNC just more important? How many people are going to die so a convention can go ahead? If you’re going to take responsibility for moving an entire hurricane, you’re also responsible for where you move it to.

But perhaps some believers still prefer this disturbing conclusion to the alternative: admitting that God has nothing to do with it. After all, if your god can only operate in ways that are already accounted for by the mindless workings of natural laws, who needs him?

TONIGHT: Live show at 10 PM!

Heather and I will be hosting a live show on BlogTV tonight at 10 PM Eastern time. If you haven’t been to BlogTV before, it’s basically a live stream attached to a chatroom where everyone can talk with us. It’s usually great fun. Just go to http://www.blogtv.com/people/zjemptv at 10 o’clock, and we’ll see you there!

Update: Our show is now concluded. Thanks to all the people who stopped by!

Heather is here for YOU!

Since a lot of people seem to be asking about this, I think I should explain why I sometimes feature my partner Heather and her videos on our channel. Many seem to think that this is just something I grudgingly indulge out of a sense of obligation. In reality, I’ve actually had to convince her to do this. She usually doesn’t want to do videos, because she thinks they aren’t good enough.

But I want her here, because she covers an area that I’ve often neglected: the explicit discussion of feminism. And quite simply, she’s better at it. To me, it’s like watching videos by QualiaSoup or AronRa – I look at her work and I think, I wish I were that insightful. Fortunately, we live together, so why shouldn’t we work together on this?

I find it really interesting that when I have featured various feminist ideas in my videos, hardly anyone has a problem with this. I suspect it’s because I’ve rarely used the word “feminism” itself – a term with an almost magical ability to turn people’s brains off. As soon as you say you’re a feminist, out come the standard array of reflex responses: “you’re ugly”, “you’re a bitch”, “you just hate men”, “why don’t you support everyone’s rights?”, “what about the men?”, “but men and women are different!”, “women are already equal!” – the sort of thing that most of us already have the good sense not to say about LGBT rights, atheist activism, and other issues I regularly discuss.

Somehow, this topic alone has managed to enrage more people than when I’ve recommended boycotting the Salvation Army, told preteens it’s okay to be gay because there is no God, suggested that transgender people shouldn’t have to tell anyone they’re trans before sleeping with them, and drawn Muhammad and then eaten the drawing. Apparently it’s much worse to call yourself a feminist and say that gender roles are mostly arbitrary, often restrictive, and usually disadvantage women. If that’s really the worst thing you’ve ever heard on this channel, then I’m pretty proud of Heather for accomplishing something that even I couldn’t do.

And as long as this is how people react to any mention of feminism, this tells me that more coverage of feminism is exactly what we need. We need more open discussion of what feminism actually is, why feminism is a necessary movement, why the issues addressed by feminism are important, and why being a feminist is nothing to be ashamed of. If this isn’t something you want to hear about, well, that’s your loss. But as always, we do hope that some people will at least make an effort to listen and understand. We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think it mattered.

In a radical feminist world, there is no transphobia

by Heather

Radical feminism is a platform for gender equality which includes, among other things, the belief that most gender is performed. As a radical feminist, I believe that gender roles are artificially created, that most dimorphism is affected rather than mandated by nature, and that the divide has been pushed beyond all reason to the express benefit of men. This is what we call the patriarchy.

One unfortunate aspect of this socialization is that society, through various messages including but not limited to role-modeling from peers and media, teaches young men that they are entitled to the hearts and minds of women, including but again not limited to domestic and sexual servitude. Women, no more fond of subjugation and servitude than men, become unfortunately prone to self-loathing and more fortunately prone to rebellion.

In the process of shaking ourselves loose the shackles of gendered expectations, different schools of feminism have emerged. Varying degrees of oppression are recognized, and socialized roles and appearances are sorted differently into categories of oppressive and benign. Radical feminism, as the name suggests, subscribes to the most severe criteria. Radical feminism is also unfortunately best known by queer communities as transphobic.

The rift between radical feminism and trans activism begins with the application of known oppressive phenomena to the analysis of trans presentation and activism. On the surface, it’s easy to see what their problem is. To the casual observer, trans women assert and express their womanhood physically and visually. They often wear feminine clothes, shave feminine areas, and insist on feminine names and pronouns. Trans men resist feminine obligations, much the way radical feminists do, but then also resist the designation of “woman.” In the eyes of transphobic radical feminists, the former too closely resembles role enforcement while the latter too closely resembles self-loathing.

If trans people and trans activists were at all interested in sending women at large back to the kitchen, entrenching them further into the sex class, or in the case of trans men, eliminating women altogether or otherwise gender-leveling up, the transphobic radical feminists might have a point. Inconveniently for them, this couldn’t be further from the case.

The patriarchy has the same persistent negative impact on trans women as it does cis women. Society tells them that they are more acceptable when they present in a feminine manner and worth less as a person when they fail to please the eye. The rigid physical standards applied to women cause trans women inordinate amounts of stress. The sex classing of women and requisite caste system of the class (more commonly known as varying degrees of fuckability, or even more commonly as a scale from 1 to 10) has inhumanely relegated trans women with a certain remaining organ to the undesirables. They are expected to be content with either fetishization or pity fucking, along with cis women of the overweight and differently abled varieties. This particular problem has recently been the birth of a massive online “cotton ceiling” debate. We’ll get back to that.

Let us first work on the premise that trans women are women and trans men are men. Of course without the validity of their genders decided upon, it’s easy enough for transphobes to make their arguments unchallenged. The most common radical feminist position on trans identities is that a post-patriarchal world would not require men to call themselves women to be feminine. They could just be feminine men; reverse that for trans men.

But this doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Society already does not require masculine women to call themselves men or feminine men to call themselves women. Furthermore, a post-patriarchal world – more specifically a post-gender role world – would necessarily have eliminated almost every trait that divides men from women. Things we think of as masculine or feminine would no longer be associated with men or women and would no longer even be recognizable as masculine or feminine. Masculinity and femininity would lose all meaning.

This is not a utopian fantasy. Many things have already lost masculine and feminine categorization. In my mother’s time, trumpet playing was masculine. In my grandmother’s time, making jokes was masculine. Today, neither of these activities are associated with gender. It is not possible to draw a line in this gender-blending at the physical. Perhaps the imaginations of older-generation feminists who grew up in far more oppressive environments than today’s feminists were unable to think as far ahead as, say, the thick-necked, slender-hipped, flat-chested physiques of the very feminine 2012 Olympic women’s gymnastics team, or the soft skin and round, well-developed breasts of a trans woman on HRT. Nonetheless, here we have it. The lines are being erased with the slow liberation of women and medical advancement.

If the contention of radical feminism is that neither behavior, nor presentation, nor physical appearance should make or break the difference between men and women, why draw the line at the word “man” or “woman?” The very words will become nonsensical and impossible to define. Sure, there will still be some natural hormonal division, but when people can safely, permanently, and completely alter these differences at will, why deny it? When women and men are socialized equally, what will anyone have lost? What will anyone have gained but the right to define themselves, the right for which radical feminists so arduously fight?

Back to the cotton ceiling debate, or really, any debate online between radical feminists and trans activists: Is a childhood of boy-designated socialization sometimes evident in arguments from trans women? Absolutely. To start with, they don’t question themselves, apologize for themselves, or wait for their turn to speak quite as often as cis women are taught to do from birth. Likewise, a childhood of girl-designated socialization is sometimes evident when trans men make arguments. It will be nice when girl-designated socialization and boy-designated socialization include a childhood where respect and assertiveness are taught equally, but though there has been progress, we’re not there yet.

However, there is no reason to make the leap from a sense of the way somebody was socialized as a child to their “true” gender. Like the wage gap, sex classing, and glass ceiling, all of which very much apply to trans people’s identities rather than their designated birth sex, these are simply the costs and benefits of the patriarchy. Like skirts, heels, trucks, and sports, they are no more reflective of the true identity of a trans person than they are a cis person.

Let’s not forget what Dinesh D’Souza said about 9/11

On a recent episode of “Secure Freedom Radio”, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza had this to say about President Obama:

It fits in this way Janet, because I think Obama is weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadis who are captured in Iraq or Afghanistan, giving them constitutional rights, wanting to close down Guantanamo or when Obama keeps taking the Palestinian position against Israel, some people think that the reason he does this is because he must be a secret Muslim himself. I think that’s wrong. But what I do think Obama thinks is he thinks, ‘look, America is the evil power occupying these poor Third World countries, so the Muslims who are fighting against America are freedom fighters, they’re like Mandela, they’re like Gandhi, they’re like Obama’s own dad fighting to push the British out of Kenya.’ He views those guys in favorable terms and he sees America, not Iran or North Korea, but America as the rogue nation that has to be pulled back.

Such accusations are especially striking in light of what D’Souza wrote in his 2007 book, The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11:

In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage—some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice—but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened. …

Shortly after the fall of Baghdad, graffiti began to appear on the walls of the city and its environs. The following scrawl caught my attention. “Marriage of the same sex became legal in America. Is this, with the mafia and drugs, what you want to bring to Iraq, America? Is this the freedom you promised?” Even if the source of this statement is of little consequence, the content is revealing. It is not an objection to freedom, but to the kind of freedom associated with drug legalization and homosexual marriage. As such, it is a vital clue to the sources of Muslim rage. And here is an excerpt from a recent videotape by Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy of Bin Laden and reputed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. “The freedom we want is not the freedom to use women as a commodity to gain clients, win deals, or attract tourists; it is not the freedom of AIDS and an industry of obscenities and homosexual marriages; it is not the freedom of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.”

What these statements convey is that these Islamic radicals do not hate America because of its wealth and power; they hate America because of how Americans use that wealth and power. They do not hate us for our freedom; they hate us because of what we do with our freedom. The radical Muslims are convinced that America and Europe have become sick, demented societies that destroy religious belief, undermine traditional morality, dissolve the patriarchal family, and corrupt the innocence of children. …

There seems to be a growing belief in traditional cultures—a belief encouraged but by no means created by Islamic fundamentalism—that America is materially prosperous but culturally decadent. It is technologically sophisticated but morally depraved. As former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto puts it, “Within the Muslim world, there is a reaction against the sexual overtones that come across in American mass culture. America is viewed through this prism as an immoral society.” In his book The Crisis of Islam, Bernard Lewis rehearses what he calls the “standard litany of American offenses recited in the lands of Islam” and ends with this one: “Yet the most powerful accusation of all is the degeneracy and debauchery of the American way of life.” As these observations suggest, what angers religious Muslims is not the American Constitution but the scandalous sexual mores they see on American movies and television. What disgusts them are not free elections but the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other and taking marriage vows. The person that horrifies them the most is not John Locke but Hillary Clinton. …

We should not dismiss the Islamic or traditional critique so easily. In fact, as our own domestic and cultural debate shows, we know that many of the concerns raised by the radical Muslims are widely-shared in our own society. Indeed, many conservative and religious Americans agree with the Islamic fundamentalists that American culture has become increasingly vulgar, trivial and disgusting. I am not merely referring to the reality shows where contestants eat maggots or the talk shows where guests reveal the humiliating details of their sex lives. I am also referring to “high culture,” to liberal culture that offers itself as refined and sophisticated.

Here, for example, is a brief excerpt from Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” a play that won rave reviews and Hollywood accolades and is now routinely performed (according to its own publicity materials) in “more than 20 countries, including China and Turkey.” In the book version of the play—now sold in translation in Pakistan, India, and Egypt—Ensler offers what she terms “Vagina Occurrences”: “Glenn Close gets 2,500 people to stand up and chant the word cunt…There is now a Cunt Workshop at Wesleyan University…Roseanne performs ‘What Does Your Vagina Smell Like?” in her underwear for two thousand people…Alanis Morisette and Audra McDonald sing the cunt piece.” And so on. If all of this makes many Americans uncomfortable and embarrassed—which may be part of Ensler’s objective—one can only imagine how it is received in traditional cultures where the public recitation of such themes and language is considered a grotesque violation of manners and morals. …

Thus we have the first way in which the cultural left is responsible for 9/11. The left has produced a moral shift in American society that has resulted in a deluge of gross depravity and immorality. This deluge threatens to engulf our society and is imposing itself on the rest of the world. The Islamic radicals are now convinced that America represents the revival of pagan barbarism in the world, and 9/11 represents their ongoing battle with what they perceive to be the forces of Satan.

So, who really seems “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadis” here? Who do you think believes “America is the evil power occupying these poor Third World countries” and sees America as “the rogue nation that has to be pulled back”? Obama, or the guy who blames The Vagina Monologues, Hillary Clinton and “hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other” for provoking attacks by Islamic extremists?