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Archive for the ‘Gender and Sexuality’ Category



Fifty Shades of Jihad

Feb23

by: on February 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

A Muslim woman walking on a bridge.

What do 50 Shades of Grey and jihad have in common? Masculine violence and hatred against women, argues Roger Gottlieb. Credit: Creative Commons / FaceMePLS

Fifty Shades of Grey and Jihad. Any similarity? Of course not. One is a phenomenally successful, poorly written, vaguely pornographic novel that follows the tried and true formula of romance novels: powerful, gorgeous, got-it-all man falls for shy, immature, hiddenly attractive, and mildly spunky woman. He dominates her; she reforms him. They (and their assorted whips and handcuffs) live happily ever after.

The second is the horror of ISIS beheading and burning and slaughtering innocent victims; a range of killings from Paris to Denmark to Montreal. People possessed by an insane lust for violence in the service of a literal and infinitely intolerant interpretation of a monotheistic text and tradition. Women as chattel or worse.

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The Second Exodus

Feb20

by: Dvora Lederman Daniely on February 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

A painting of Adam and Eve.

The role of women and matriarchs as leaders is evidenced throughout the Bible (and Torah). Credit: Creative Commons / Tilemahos Efthimiadis

The story of salvation from Egypt is the founding story of Israel’s faith and religion. Every year, the Jewish people convenes and celebrates the Passover Seder – a ritual feast involving a retelling of the biblical story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Rachel Adler argues in her book “Engendering Judaism” that the biblical story gives the deity a body, and indeed, the hegemonic text emphasizes the story that gave divinity and the leader of salvation a male body. But beyond the hegemonic display, serving a patriarchal culture, a different presentation of events dwells in the text of salvation, one that gives divinity a female body, and characterizes the forces of salvation as female corporeal-spiritual ones.

The beginning of the story is in fact a testosterone-filled competition between two belligerent fathers – the God of Israel and Pharaoh; the two men are playing a game just “to spite”. In the book of Exodus chapter 1, the king is depicted as calling to his sons, the Egyptian people: “Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous” (Exodus 1:10). Pharaoh fears the fighting capabilities of the Israeli males, and therefore tortures the people of Israel. The other father, God, as depicted by the male hegemonic text, declares

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Trans* People Murdered for Truth Telling

Feb16

by: on February 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Abolitionists jointed together to work for the immediate end to the institution of human slavery and the cessation of racial discrimination and segregation. They faced steep opposition from many quarters including a number of Christian denominations who asserted that sacred scripture not only condoned, but more importantly, mandated the practice of slavery.

Trans* Women:

Alejandra Leos,41, fatally shot, Memphis, Tennessee.

Aniya Parker, 47, fatally shot, Los Angeles, California

Young people conducted a number of sit-in demonstrations at Southern lunch counters to end Jim Crow laws of segregated public facilities, to the abusive taunts of onlookers and crashing batons of local police. Demonstrators faced imprisonment and the imposition of permanent criminal records.

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Church of Latter-day Saints: Way Too Little, Far Too Late

Feb10

by: on February 10th, 2015 | No Comments »

 

Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, distorts loving relationships, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel….

The Handbook of Instructions, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

These words express God’s supposed “revelation” to the leadership of the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and reaffirmed in 1995 when the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles entered the debate on the parameters of marriage by issuing “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It stated in part,

A group of Mormons is marching for marriage equality at the Pride Parade in San Francisco.

Not all Mormons are against same-sex marriage. Here, Mormons for Marriage Equality marches during the San Francisco Pride Celebration in 2013. Credit: InSapphoWeTrust / Creative Commons.

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His Children…”

If the Church’s position on same-sex attractions, expression, and marriage for same-sex couples were not clear enough, LDS President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Boyd K. Packer, referred to homosexuality throughout a sharply worded sermon as “wrong,” “wicked,” “impure,” “unnatural,” “immoral,” “against nature,” “evil,” and as a threat to civilization.

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Going Beyond Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Non-Discrimination Updates

Feb4

by: on February 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

After consistently refusing for the past 17 years to initiate protections in the workplace for its LGBT employees, Exxon Mobil Corporation finally announced that it will update its corporate policies to safeguard employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

People cleaning up the Exxon Valdez oil spill

What good are workplace protections in an industry that has granted no such protections to our planet? Above, volunteers cleaning up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, the second largest oil spill in U.S. history. Credit: Jim Brickett/ Creative Commons

The company will now comply with President Obama’s historic amendment to executive order 11246 issued in July 2014 forbidding businesses receiving federal contracts from discriminating against LGBT people. Earlier, Obama amended Executive Order 11478 to include “gender identity” to other protected categories in the federal civilian workforce. During his presidency, Clinton amended this Executive Order to prohibit discrimination toward U.S. government employees based on sexual orientation.

This may be fine that Exxon Mobil Corp. has ever-so-reluctantly, though finally, added LGBT workplace protections. However, Exxon Mobil Corp. remains one of the primary environmental polluters in an industry that threatens the Earth and life as we know it. What good are workplace protections in a corporation and in an entire industry that has granted no such protections to our planet?The environment group, Sierra Club, charges Exxon Mobil Corp. with being one of the biggest polluters in the country. Even a cursory review of Exxon Mobile Corp.’s environmental record brings to light this corporation’s criminal policies.

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This Is Not a Travelogue (With American Jewish World Service in Central America)

Feb3

by: Aryeh Cohen on February 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »

The word that kept coming up was “accompaniment” (acompañamiento in Spanish). In the second floor offices of the poetically named sex workers’ rights organization Flor de Piedra (Flower from the Stone) in San Salvador – ten or fifteen off-white plastic chairs set in rows on a tile floor under a glass roof; coils of barbed wire on the wall between this building and the next – a reflection of the high rate of violence and fear pervasive in El Salvador – four or five staff in their thirties and forties, sex workers of the same age who were members of the organization.

Purple flower growing in sandstone.

Professor Aryeh Cohen traveled Central America with the American Jewish World Service to meet partner organizations like Flor de Piedra (Flower From the Stone) which advocate for sex workers

In the heavily secured (thick metal gate at the top of the steep staircase, barbed wire visible through the window) second story offices of COMCAVIS Trans – a necessity because of the violence faced by trans women on a daily basis – sitting in a cramped corner office with the slightest hint of a breeze on a typically hot San Salvador afternoon. Listening to Natalie, a member of the board of directors, speak about the dangers that the trans women who are members of COMCAVIS trans face on a daily basis. The mission of the organization is to represent, defend, and promote trans women’s human rights. However, when Diana, a native of San Salvador, who joined after a friend was assassinated, spoke of the importance of COMCAVIS, she spoke of accompaniment. Sullai spoke about the fact that COMCAVIS helped her get a restraining order against her brother who had threatened her. Other members recalled sitting in the hospital with a member who’d been attacked because her family refused to come see her.

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New Hope Ministries Offers No Hope At All

Feb2

by: on February 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »

Three women holding up a picture of Vanessa Collier at a demonstration

A pastor at New Hope Ministries in Colorado stopped Vanessa Collier's funeral in the middle of the service because she was a lesbian. Vanessa's friends are shown above, demonstrating at a rally in front of the church. Credit: Craig F. Walker/ The Denver Post)

I am continually amazed, but no longer surprised, when I witness incidents where individuals and entire denominations justify and perpetuate acts of bigotry and tyranny in the name of God and religion. From scorn, marginalization, forced conversion, and expulsion to kidnapping, rape, enslavement, invasion, and murder, throughout the ages up to our current epoch, people have taken literal and not-so-literal interpretations of their scriptures to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and entire nations targeted by these texts.

The latest incident in this heinous saga comes from the New Hope Ministries in Denver, Colorado when at approximately 15 minutes into conducting a funeral service, Pastor Ray Chavez suddenly stopped and announced that he will not continue. He then ordered that the funeral must be moved since, apparently, he discovered that the deceased was a lesbian.

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Running in High Heels? Not!

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

high heels

Credit: Creative Commons / SPERA.de Designerschuhe, Taschen und Accessoires

There is an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) television commercial that shows a woman in a short skirt and high heels while the voice over talks of finding a career you love at any age and about life reimagined. Whenever I see this spot called “I’ve Still Got It”, I think that when anyone is old enough for an AARP card, there are some things you should know, one of which is running in high heels is a dumb idea.

If you are old enough for an AARP card, you ought to be able to recognize a non sequitur, a logical fallacy where the premises do not lead to the stated conclusion. A miniskirt and high heels have nothing whatever to do with continued vitality as we age, nothing whatever to do with working on exciting projects either as a career or not after age 50, nothing whatever to do with re-imagining life’s possibilities.

If you are old enough for an AARP card, you should know, especially if you are a woman, the history of high heels. They were first used in ancient Persia by men who used the heels to keep them in stirrups when riding horses. Over time, high heels have been used by short kings and queens to make them appear taller. The aristocracy used them to distinguish themselves from the lower classes. The heels showed that unlike the lower classes, they did not have to walk. With the Enlightenment, men were thought to be rational and useful, in charge. They stopped wearing high heels. Women were seen as sentimental and as decoration. The more successful the man, the more beautiful the woman or women with which he was associated. Once upon a time, the only women who wore high heels were prostitutes. Today, many women wear high heels because they are supposed to make a woman’s legs look longer and shapelier. They cause her to walk with more sway to her hips. Many women wear high heels so that they feel confident and sexy.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Inescapable Network of Mutuality’

Jan20

by: on January 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

“My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, .’We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny…an inescapable network of mutuality….I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.’ Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

— Coretta Scott King, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference Plenary Address, Atlanta, Georgia, 2000

At this time of year, as we commemorate and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am reminded once again of his vibrant image of the “inescapable network of mutuality” that links humanity. Dr. King envisioned an inclusive model of social justice because he believed that “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Though the concept of “social justice” has been defined a number of ways, I have constructed my definition as:

“The concept that local, national, and global communities functionwhere everyone has equal access to and equitable distribution of the rights, benefits, privileges, and resources, and where everyone can live freely unencumbered by social constructions of hierarchical positions of domination and subordinationbased onsocial identities.”

Yes, identities based on race and sexual and gender identities, for example, are very distinct, and the weight of oppression often falls on members of these groups differently. However, many argue that since “race” is an immutable biological trait that people are born with, certain protections must be provided to prevent the dominant group from persecuting minoritized “races.” They also assert that same-sex and both-sex attractions and gender identities and expressions outside the binary are not factors that people are born with but rather “choose” later in life, and therefore, they do not deserve nor require “special rights” for their chosen so-called “life styles.”

I see an underlying assumption to this argument: there are only limited rights to go around, and since there is such a scarcity of rights available, we must divide them among people on the basis of biology. This “scarcity” theory results in marginalized groups competing for what they see as the crumbs of a small and limited pie, rather than joining together to work for a larger and more equitable pie. This argument also fails in that it neither understands nor even acknowledges individuals’ intersecting and multiple identities or multiple positionalities from which they experience the world.

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LGBT Equality and the 2012 GOP Presidential Candidates

Jan14

by: on January 14th, 2015 | No Comments »

I would like to provide a bit of a historical retrospective as we begin to enter the sweepstakes for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I do this for the purpose of assessing whether Republicans — individual candidates and as a larger Party – remains attached to the policies of the past or has evolved and moved forward in terms of issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality (LGBT).

Back in 2011, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum described marriage for same-sex couples as “a hit to faith and family in America,” and he asserted that if legalized, “their sexual activity” would be seen as “equal” to heterosexual relationships, and it would be taught in schools. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” he continued. Previously, he said that marriage between same-sex couples will cause our country to “fall.”

When asked by Jane Schmidt, student coordinator of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Waverly High School in Waverly, Iowa on November 30, 2011, “Why can’t same-sex couples get married [throughout the United States]?,” Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann responded that gay and lesbian people should have “no special rights” to marry people of the same sex, insisting that “the laws are you marry a person of the opposite sex.” She added: “They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.”

Bachmann has consistently represented same-sex attractions and sexuality as a “disorder” that encourages child abuse and “enslavement.” Her husband, Marcus, has been roundly criticized for his so-called “conversion therapy” (“praying away the gay”) practices at his Minnesota counseling center. Michelle Bachmann’s Iowa co-chair, Tamara Scott, was recorded as asserting that the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples would ultimately lead to people marrying turtles and inanimate objects, like the Eiffel Tower.

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