Against public marriage proposals

I’m a bit mixed on the notion of marriage. There’s a lot tangled up in that word: The legalities, how every legal system in the world (that I’m aware of) privileges a spouse over an acquaintance in multiple sectors of society, how estates can be combined or divided, how taxation can be collected as an entity rather than individuals. But there’s also the ceremony, how some folks spend an absurd amount on their wedding, something which I find difficult to stomach knowing how many resources are out there just barely scraping by who fill vital community functions.

Today, I’ll just signal boost one particular position–public marriage proposals are a shitty idea.

Recently, I had the abject misfortune to find myself part of a captive audience to a public proposal. I veered between burning mortification, obsessive checking that the woman was in fact definitely happy about this, and fury because I really needed a wee and this public proposal was going on right in front of my route to the toilet.

Public proposals have been discussed a lot in feminist circles, often viewed as coerciverooted in insecurity, and not giving the person being proposed to a decent chance to say no. In short, they’re not romantic, they’re manipulative. This additional social pressure, with all eyes on you, makes it incredibly difficult to refuse, especially if the relationship you’re in already has overtones of coercive control. If you’re on TV, on a crowded street, on a packed aeroplane, you know that everyone is expecting you to say “yes” so everyone can feel good–and for women in particular this is the sort of situation where we’re socialised to avoid letting everyone down.

And of course, it’s almost always women being proposed to by men. You may have the odd same-sex couple or woman proposing to a man, and these are so remarkable they appear all over the bloody news (thus furthering the pressure).

Public proposals are, in short, dire. I don’t believe in carceral measures for massive social problems, but if I did, I’d make public proposals punishable by death.

(I gather from the rest of the blag that Stavvers is mostly joking.)

However, what I want to talk about is wider: the notion of the proposal itself. This, too, is unnecessary and actually rather weird when we drill down into it. Many couples, when deciding to get married, deploy the following format: one partner “pops the question” to the other, with a little bit of pomp and ceremony, perhaps kneeling and a bit of jewellery. The words uttered are usually a variation on the theme of “will you marry me?”, and the proposee will then say either yes or no.

Getting married is a major life decision, and yet it is the only major life decision I can think of which involves a bizarre ritual in making the decision. We do not buy a ring while figuring out whether to go to university or not. We do not book a fancy restaurant to have a think about buying a house. We do not get down on one knee when deciding if we want to have children. We do not put a cute little question in a fortune cookie when working through the various treatment options for an illness.

Read more about Stavver’s opinion here.



This is what transmisogyny looks like

When a Twitter user at the handle afroSHIRL requested a voluntary sterilization, she was told she shouldn’t get the procedure because she wasn’t married and her future husband might want kids. She rightly pointed out that this implicitly meant to the doctor that her body belongs to a man she hasn’t even met yet. The trope itself is the meeting point of two virulently misogynistic ideas: The first that a woman’s worth is defined by her appeal to men; and the second that procreation is her duty. 

Most self-identified feminists will recognise why these premises are troubling. What I hope is that we’ll start to recognise them when they’re being wielded against trans women, too:

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Forced birthers are the “extreme position”

I’ve taken to call the self-styled pro-“life” position as “forced birth,” mostly to confront the brass tacks of their policy: It boils down to forcing birth. Forced birth elements tend to be well practiced in exaggeration and frivolous accusation as tools to manipulate discourse–my position is considered “extremist” because I view a person as the sole sovereign over the occurrences in their own body, full stop, no ifs ands or buts. Rather bizarrely, the label “extreme” seems to be seldom given to forced-birthers, despite the implications of their policy, yet I am often called the same for thinking that “my body, my choice” is a reasonable thesis statement.

Taryn De Vere takes it from there (Content Notice for some seriously disturbing institutionalized misogyny):

Giving a Heil Hitler salute during a pro “Life” protest is an extremist action.

Keeping a clinically dead woman alive (against the wishes of her grieving family) because she has an nonviable fetus in her uterus is an extremist action.

Angrily abusing women who had to travel abroad to access abortion services after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis is an extreme action.

Pushing the head of a frightened child with Downs Syndrome towards counter-protesters is an extremist action.

Allowing women to die rather than give them a life-saving abortion is extremist.

Threatening to cut the throat of an elected representative is extreme (especially for someone who says they are pro “life”).

She has plenty more examples. Read them here.


Hypocrisy, it’s what’s for dinner

Canada Day came and passed on this blag with nary a word, and even last year I wasn’t particularly serious about the celebration. Then, for July 4th, Marcus wrote a post about the many hypocrisies on which the American empire is founded. He notes in passing that all nations likely trade heavily in this hypocrisy, and Canada is no different.

I’ll start with this observation: Canada is consistently perceived as a trustworthy and welcoming country, ranking 1st in the entire world for four times in the past six years by survey discussed in this article. This is important context, the feature I frequently call “Teflon coating” when I’m writing about Canadian politics.

Canada could arguably be considered a part of the American hegemony in some ways, as opposed to an empire ourselves, given our assistance in some of America’s more egregious war operations. Marcus cites:

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It was hard-fought for by Northern Irish pro-choice activists

I was surprised to learn a couple years ago that the United Kingdom’s supposedly National Health Service could be overridden by a local ordinance. Northern Irish residents, despite being British citizens, were being denied NHS coverage for abortions that the NHS provided to any other British citizen, simply because Northern Ireland as a region is still living in the bronze age when it comes to reproductive freedom laws.

I am pleased to see this will no longer be the case.  The Guardian reports on all the complexities:

The government has announced a major concession to give Northern Irish women access to terminations on the NHS in Great Britain, in an attempt to head off a damaging Tory rebellion at a vote on the Queen’s speech.

(Par for the course, Conservatives need to have a political knife at their throats to advance on human rights law.)

Dozens of Conservative MPs were understood to have expressed to Tory whips their support for an amendment by the Labour MP Stella Creasy to allow Northern Irish women access to NHS-funded abortions in Great Britain. It was due to be voted on this afternoon.

And Philip Hammond told the Commons that the government would fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland.

Women from Northern Ireland are currently charged about £900 for a termination if they travel to have the procedure in mainland Britain, a policy upheld by a supreme court case earlier this month. Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and it is almost impossible for a women to have an abortion legally there.

In a letter to MPs outlining the new funding, the education secretary and equalities minister, Justine Greening, hinted she had personal sympathy with the issue. She wrote: “As minister for women and equalities, I share the concerns of many colleagues about the experience of women from Northern Ireland obtaining an abortion through the NHS in England.”

She added: “At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen. This is clearly a sensitive issue and one which has direct implications for equality in treatment of women from Northern Ireland.”

Greening said that the Equalities Office would fund the payments for the terminations with additional funding for health services. “This will mean no English health service user is disadvantaged as a result of this change,” she wrote. “Funding for the services will be made available through the government Equalities Office, allowing the Department of Health to commission services in England for those from Northern Ireland.

Regardless of the circumstances, I am happy for Northern Irish residents. However, the coverage will not include travel costs, as I understand the Northern Irish government will still refuse to supply the service. This means the prior problem of poor women being unable to access appropriate care remains.

The Guardian also reported on its live coverage of the government’s concession a fracture in the Tories–seven of them defecting to stand with Labour & co. on the issue of reproductive freedom. This is a serious development considering the last election delivered no majority parties. The Tories have been trying to set for a “confidence & supply” arrangement with the Democratic Unionists, a far-right fundamentalist party, but even those negotiations seem to be deteriorating.

If we’re lucky, this is a sign that Labour might be able to punch above its weight again in the future.


Notes on selective white outrage

Madelaine Hanson has some notes on the UK’s far-right and their “Muslims arr commin for arr wimmin!” trope.

Anyway, when there were (and there was) thousands of other rape, abuse, sexual violence and stalking cases committed by white guys against ‘our women’, Lo! Tommy Robinson was nowhere to be seen. Nor was any other outraged white right wingers. Because, if you hadn’t noticed, the crime isn’t abusing women, it’s being a muslim and abusing a white woman. In fact I’d go further than that, it’s being a foreigner/non-white and abusing a white woman. It stinks of racism and reminds me of the lynching of black men who touched white women in the South.

They (the far white-right patriots) use ‘muslim’ as an ideological cover for their xenophobia. Controversially, I’d argue that some of their criticism of Islam, Islamists and indeed South Asian/Arab cultural misogyny isn’t completely wrong, but their motives for it come from completely the wrong place. It doesn’t come from a desire for an end to honour killings, acid attacks and female slavery, it comes from very angry, very racist hatred of the ‘other’. They don’t argue for stricter punishment for acid attackers, they argue for the deportation of Pakistanis. They don’t argue for Salafi women to be given police protection from abusive family/spouses after leaving abusive marriages, they argue for hanging to be brought back in relation to Islamic murders. They don’t argue for longer sentences for child groomers, just for less immigration from Central Asia. It’s transparent.

Read more about it here.


A comprehensive review of objections to trans womanhood

I was actually starting to build up a list of arguments that are frequently used as a bludgeon to question the authenticity of trans women (and it’s always trans women) when Julia Serano published her comprehensive review of all that bullshit.

The “trans women refuse to acknowledge any distinction” fallacy

People who make the trans-women-aren’t-women case will often insist that there is a distinction between cis women and trans women, yet trans women refuse to acknowledge this distinction. I find such claims endlessly frustrating. I have never once in my life heard a trans woman claim that our experiences are 100 percent identical to those of cis women. Indeed, the very fact that we in the trans community describe people as being “transgender” and “cisgender” points to an acknowledgement of potential differences!

The problem isn’t that we (i.e., trans women) refuse to acknowledge any differences, but rather that the trans-women-aren’t-women crowd refuses to acknowledge our many similarities.

This has come up a few (just a few) times in my work.

Read the other forms of “real woman” gobbledegook here.


Finding a therapist as a kinky queer weirdo

H. D. Roslin has a piece up about finding a mental health counselor who isn’t going to pathologize your various deviations from the pastey-ass Christian cishetero norm:

Folks who fall outside of social norms by choice, birth, or biology often find themselves wondering if the therapist they can afford will try and “fix” their sexuality, change their family structure, or harshly judge or misinterpret their identities or relationship structures. And these fears aren’t unfounded; marginalized people are accustomed to their identities being medicalized and pathologized, and to being told that who they are, at their core, is broken, sick, or wrong. Add to that the fact that conversion/reparative “therapies” are still legal in 46 states, and it’s understandable why finding a therapist can feel so daunting and scary.

So what’s a marginalized person in need of help to do? As someone who’s logged more than 400 volunteer hours for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and who’s learned how to manage therapy myself, I’m often asked this question. Here are some of the most common queries I hear from humans dipping their toes into the pool of professional guidance, help, and support.

Do I need therapy?

Spoilers: Yep.

That said, I’m not sure this is always the right question to ask. I prefer to ask questions like: Are you flourishing? Do you feel entitled to flourishing? Are there people in your life who rely on you being your healthiest self? Have you ever had the opportunity to evaluate the ways you weathered childhood and adolescence? Have you ever experienced an emotional crisis? How did that go? Could it have gone better? Could it happen again? What kind of support do you have?

How do I find the right therapist?

I will be 100% honest: I cheat. My first stop is always the Psychology Today Therapist Finder, followed shortly thereafter by any local Queer Exchange on Facebook (most major metro areas have one; just do a Facebook search for “Queer Exchange” and whatever metropolitan area is closest to you).

Read more about it here.

I can also corroborate that it helps to be upfront about the various things that are potential landmines. For example, in my inquiries, I said immediately: “I need a kink-aware, queer & trans-friendly professional.” That filtered out the counselors who would fumble upon those disclosures and spared me the waste of disclosing to an unprepared person. But I also live in an area with pretty rigorous rights-laws and such upfront disclosures are no risk to me, so take that with a grain of salt.