Why Feminism Isn’t Radical

There’s an article up on Vice as of a couple days ago. It’s about a particular feminist thinker Sophie Lewis and her call to eliminate the family as the social unit we embrace today. Her full argument is contained in Full Surrogacy Now, if you’re interested, but the article is not about the argument per se, but the social reactions of various groups of people to the publication of the book.

As one might imagine, it’s not an idea that skyrockets in popularity with the media attention it receives. The right is both dismissive and antagonistic, in fact the right wing appears to be dismissive of the work in order to justify not taking the time to understand it in order to make it easier to express antagonism. Some of the antagonism clearly targets ideas Lewis isn’t arguing, and if some does, well, it doesn’t seem to be as a result of intellectual rigor. Rather the explosive reaction sends antagonism in all directions, which necessitates some of it targeting Full Surrogacy Now’s argument: target everything, after all, and so long as Lewis’ book’s argument is part of everything it will eventually be criticized accurately.

But backlash is not limited to the right wing. The left also has its objections, well founded and otherwise. It is in exploring the objections of the left that Marie Solis, the author of the Vox article, goes awry:

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Caine Left Us A Gift

I normally don’t write much on Feb 14th. My own history with it is … complicated. It involves a violent relationship in which my abuser left me on the 14th thinking it would hurt me. Instead I had to conceal my relief. I was actually so convinced that I would be murdered by that partner that I still celebrate the 14th each year as my “Freedom Day”. Often the celebration is tiny, or private, but it’s not meant to be witnessed. The day is for me alone.

That said, a large number of people do celebrate romance on the 14th of February. For those people I thought I’d bring back something created by a collaborative effort of a number of Pharyngula Hordemembers, but really led and organized by our beloved and now departed Caine: our Crystal Clear Consent guidelines. (Thread where these guidelines were created is here. Search for Consent and/or Caine and you’ll get most of the conversation.) For all those people who want better and more ethical sex lives, you can thank Caine in significant part for the wisdom she collected on sexual consent.

Go forth and sexify:

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Representative Ayanna Pressley: Naked Courage

Ayanna Pressley has just released a video through The Root about losing her hair over the last 6 months as a result of alopecia areata.  This is a screenshot from that video:

Representative Ayanna Pressley goes bald in public for the first time.

I’ve written about Black hair before, but seriously, this is a doozy of a topic. It’s hard for white people to understand just how political Black women’s hair can be, even though we’re often the ones doing the politicizing (e.g. her hair isn’t professional, is she trying to be militant? etc.).

So right now, I’ll just say this.

The first Black woman I ever seriously dated had sickle cell trait-related alopecia. She wore a wig constantly – nice looking one, too – but was apparently freaked that I might “discover” she had very little, very short, and very patchy hair on her head. In the dark she took off her wig while I was in the bathroom. I came back and found her sitting straight up, rigidly, instead of relaxing on the bed. I could tell there was something different about her silhouette, too, though it took my eyes a little bit to refocus. By the time I sat down on the bed next to her, she was almost shaking.

For the Black women who have this, this is a huge deal with a lot of shame attached. [I am, of course, not saying that’s how it should be, just saying that that is how it actually is right now.] It took a fuckload of courage for that girlfriend to expose her natural hair to me, one on one and in the dark after I had already clearly expressed my affection for her and attraction to her.

It’s remembering that woman quivering with fear on my bed in the dark that makes me qualified to say, Pressly, you’re a straight-up BadAss.

Go watch the video. It’s under ten minutes, and you won’t regret it.

Thirty-Eight

Well, today the Virginia legislature ratified the ERA, making it the 38th state to have done so. This does not mean that the ERA will be immediately effective. There are two major problems confronting ERA proponents (including me, natch).

First, 5 states that ratified the ERA have since passed acts that purport to rescind their ratification. While this is a barrier, I don’t judge this a particularly high hurdle to clear. There simply is no mechanism in the constitution that discusses, much less actually permits, a state that has ratified an amendment to take that ratification back. The constitutional process simply demands that a state ratifies it. Once a state has done so, it has done so. Anything after that is likely (but not certainly) constitutionally irrelevant.

Of course, a right-leaning judiciary might still attempt to hang up ratification on that point, but since it’s pretty flimsy and in pretty flagrant conflict with the actual constitutional text, so-called originalists would prefer to have another hook on which to hang their argument that the ERA cannot be put into effect. As it so happens, they do. That’s the second barrier: the ERA as written is simple and includes no deadline, but passage of the ERA was accompanied by text that gave the states only a limited amount of time to ratify, after which the amendment would be presumed not ratifiable. This deadline was extended once, but not again, and according to the accompanying text (as amended) time to ratify passed in 1982.

Now, the constitution also does not specify that Congress may limit the time period during which states may consider ratification, but this argument has decidedly more sympathy than the any argument that states might be able to “take back” ratification. After all, if they can take back ratification, there is no obvious reason that they can’t take back ratification of an amendment already in effect. This could potentially reducing the amendment to support levels below the threshold needed to bring the amendment into force. At that point, what would happen? Repeal of an in-force amendment? What if a single state repeals their ratification of the 9th amendment? Since there were only 13 states at the time, and only 10 required to put the amendment into effect, rescinded ratification by one state could result in a need to ratify by 26-29 states to restore the amendment’s force. All these reasons make it unlikely that even die-hard conservatives hell bent on defeating the ERA would rely much on the rescinded ratification argument when they have any other argument to make.

So it seems likely that whether or not the ERA becomes effective on Jan 15, 2022 will be dependent on whether courts agree or disagree with the argument that Congress has the power to include accompanying text limiting the ratification window.

Of course, what seems more likely to me is that ratification by a 38th state will put new pressure on Congress to pass a new amendment textually identical to the ERA so that states can then ratify the new version, and that that new pressure will be successful within fewer than 10 years. At that point, we will have 33 relatively easy ratifications. To gain the other 5 might be easier than people think, but won’t necessarily be easy in any absolute sense. It’s arguably true that at least some of the reason why the 12 states never to ratify have not more recently changed their minds is because the question of the ERA was considered irrelevant by most. With a new window for passage and an enthusiastic base of women pushing for passage, it will likely be much harder for a state’s conservatives to effectively oppose ratification in the 10 years after a new ERA passes than in the 10 years leading up to today.

Nothing is guaranteed, and neither sex nor gender equality is yet enshrined in the US constitution, but Jan 15, 2020 should still be remembered as a day to celebrate. Reaching 38 is a very important victory.

Gender Neutrality is Wrong … Sometimes

Okay, so this is a quick note for those folks who aren’t completely turned off by pedantry and appreciate thinking more deeply about gender. If you ain’t both, this probably isn’t for you.

When “gender neutral” was first used in the context of trans* advocacy, access to bathrooms was probably a driving motivator of the language. In this sense, “gender neutral” is reasonable: the bathrooms themselves might easily have little to nothing to do with gender, including (importantly) things that humans tend to project gender on to even when they are not in any way associated with any particular human. So “Gender neutral” began largely communicating the idea of having no gendered connotations whatsoever – the sense we’ll use for the rest of this brief note. Bathrooms in the home are generally gender neutral in this sense, though we could certainly make a bathroom communicate femininity or masculinity by decorating it in particular ways. Still, when one tenant moved out, presumably those gender signifiers would also go: so, at least intellectually, we can separate the gender neutral bathroom from the gendered decor.

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A little too on the nose: It doesn’t start with École Polytechnique

I’ve written in Pharyngula comments before about something called the Pseudocommando shooter type. These are the folks who get big rifles with rapid fire capability and carry multiple weapons and huge number of rounds of ammunition to a target location and then shoot as many people as they can. The psychological research on the type shows that serious mental illness is uncommon in such shooters, though they do show an above average rate of mild to moderate depression and a couple of other of the most common mental illnesses. Some of the research that initially characterized the type found even these mental illnesses affected only about 40% of such shooters.

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Utah Criminal Code Chapter 9 §702-5

This is a delightful little statute. It bans “Lewdness involving a child” within the state of Utah.

I quote:

A person is guilty of lewdness involving a child if the person under circumstances not amounting to rape of a child, object rape of a child, sodomy upon a child, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses, intentionally or knowingly:
(a) does any of the following in the presence of a child who is under 14 years of age:
(i) performs an act of sexual intercourse or sodomy;
(ii) exposes his or her genitals, the female breast below the top of the areola, the buttocks, the anus, or the pubic area:
(A) in a public place; or
(B) in a private place under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor or the child;

…(iii and iv omitted)

I’m going to pare this down for you a bit:

A person is guilty of lewdness involving a child if the person [does not commit or attempt to commit a more serious sexual crime, but]:

(a) does any of the following in the presence of a child who is under 14 years of age:

(ii) exposes the female breast below the top of the areola

(B) in a private place under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor or the child;

Got that? Exposing a female breast in the presence of a child, while in a private place, is a crime if anyone will “likely” feel affronted or alarmed.

Interesting little statute there. I’m sure it would never be abused by any misogynistic prosecutors in the United States. Especially not in a state as friendly as Utah, for Mormon Heaven’s sake! No, I’m sure that they would reserve it for egregious behavior like …

Tilli Buchanan, 27, … and her husband had been installing drywall in the garage and had taken off their shirts that were itchy from the fibers, she told The Salt Lake Tribune.

When her stepchildren, aged 9, 10 and 13, walked in, she “explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,”

Well there was that consequential condition on the actus reus that involved some sort of distress. This doesn’t sound like quite enough to …

The charges were filed after the children’s mother told that authorities she was “alarmed”

Ah. So a mom hates her ex’s new wife enough that she got her arrested on charges of “lewdness” because she was doing the exact same thing as the ex (removing clothes itchy from drywall contamination), something that anyone might do in their own home. That makes more sense. Gotta protect the kids from seeing their step-mom’s boobies. At least the punishment should be proportionate given the wisdom of the Utah legislature and its…

If convicted, Buchanan faces imprisonment [for a maximum of 364 days – cd], fines up to $2,500 and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

DAMN. Well, at least exposing your nipple in your own house isn’t a felo…

Lewdness involving a child is a third degree felony if at the time of the violation:

… (ii) the person has previously been convicted of a violation of this section.

So children walking in on you while your top is off in your own home is a misdemeanor the first time. The second time it happens, you can be punished

 by an indeterminate prison term of up to five years, and a fine of as much as $5,000 [oh, and by the by, they make your sex offender registration permanent].

Well. I guess that is serious. They’ll probably lose their house too, with no one out of prison to work and pay the mortgage…

Though her husband was similarly clad, he was not charged with a crime.

But… but…

Fuckit. Utah, you are fucking horrible.

 

 

 

Can we just … not?

Eleven months ago that we had a wildfire cause millions of dollars of damage to an arid wilderness area in arizona, with that millions of dollars in damage representing a number of losses, including life, albeit not human life, that we can value as we wish, but is never replaceable.

Now there’s a gender reveal party in Iowa that ended a human life. And why, exactly?

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The Moral Bankruptcy of Gender Critical Definitions of Man & Woman

This post will rely on a single individual as an example of so-called “gender critical” thought: Holms. Holms writes frequently on FtB, and has been engaging in a long back-and-forth with myself and many others over on Mano Singham’s blog recently. (This conversation is happening on the same blog post where Mano suggested the value of discussions of horizontal hostility.) I have been growing steadily more uncomfortable with the exchange because it long ago veered away from any discussion that might illuminate how and why horizontal and intra-community hostility develop within a particular group. While Mano has made no move to shut the conversation down or even to express any specific discomfort over the thread, I think it is respectful to a blog owner to have the conversations suggested by a post, and to start your own thread somewhere else if you want to have a different conversation. Thus this post.

The phenomenon I want to discuss begins with a discussion of Holms’ definitions of “man” and “woman”:

I have actually said that ‘man = adult male human’ and ‘woman = adult female human’ are the current meanings as determined by common use.

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More on “People Who Call Out Racism Are the Real Oppressors”

I excerpted a quote from an old comment of mine when writing my most recent post on horizontal hostility. There was more there worth examining, but it wasn’t quite=exactly-directly germane as the original concept being discussed was horizontal hostility within LGBTQIA communities. (A topic suggested by Mano Singham.) I ultimately chose not to include it, but I could not ignore it, as it not only deals with feminists’ failings on anti-racism work (a topic I’ve covered before and will continue to cover) but this quote directly hits on a topic mentioned twice in the last couple of days, the idea that people calling our racism are the real racists.

It also shows how when [certain] existentialist feminists are called on, say, racism, they can so vehemently denounce an attempt to end racist behavior as siding with the oppressive powers that be. Paying attention to racism within women’s communities is “dividing us” when we are [supposed to be] all one, glorious, unified, colorless “us” of women. Did I mention colorless? Hmmmm, what’s a synonym for colorless???

Obviously this isn’t quite, “People who call out racism are the real racists,” but it would work if you substitute “oppressors” in for “racists”.