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Archive for the ‘Gender and Sexuality’ Category



Non-Negotiable Rights

Aug20

by: on August 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

gender roles equality

Are men and women really different? Does it even matter? Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Haabet

Have you noticed how easily people fall into passionate disagreement over points that matter far less than the heat they generate might suggest? I see it all the time. Last week my blog shared ideas and observations en route to speaking at the Women’s International Study Center’s inaugural symposium. The Symposium was excellent. Everyone was so smart, thoughtful, and articulate, I thought the building might levitate. But even with that much brainpower in the room, two points of this kind impressed me.

Are women better? Some speakers suggested that equal rights for women were justified by the differences women would make: that surely, women would bring different values and energies to workplaces, institutions, and the halls of power, and that would be a great improvement for everyone. These differences often turn on conventional gender types: women would be more collaborative, less belligerent. They would bring a softness and kindness. They would value relationships more and competition less.

Maybe. Maybe not.


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Baptist Pastor Inflicts Grief upon the Grieving

Aug18

by: on August 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

“The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

Biblical scholar Matthew Henry interprets this biblical passage as one in which, “The priests were solemnly to bless the people in the name of the Lord…while he mercifully forgives our sins, supplies our wants, consoles the heart, and prepares us by his grace for eternal glory….”

Pastor T. W. Jenkins welcomes guests with these comforting words from Numbers 6:24-26 when contacting his website for the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church of Tampa, Florida. Jenkins explains his Church as “Christ-centered and biblically-based…[and] offers over 30 ministries, all of which are open to visitors searching for a spirit-filled place to call home.” Well, this may hold true, except if your family wishes to assemble a funeral service when the deceased man happens to have been married in life to another man. In that case, this biblical command no longer applies, and the pastor declares it null and void.

During the wake of Julion Evans who had succumbed to amyloidosis (a rare disease of a certain protein building up in bodily organs), his mother, Julie Atwood, and his husband and life partner for over 17 years, Kendall Capers, found no hope after receiving word from Jenkins that he had cancelled Evans’s funeral after reading a newspaper obituary that Evans was married to another man, that Capers was the “surviving husband.” Jenkins told Atwood that conducting the funeral at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church would be “blasphemous.”

Explaining his decision, Jenkins asserted: “I try not to condemn anyone’s lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God and have to stand upon my principles.”

Well, Jenkins, in your refusal to conduct the funeral service, you have, indeed, condemned Evans’s so-called “lifestyle.” Actually, I never really understood why it is that heterosexual people and couples live their lives, while those of us who love and partner with someone of the same sex lead sorted “lifestyles.” Be that as it may, Jenkins has the absolute right “to stand upon [his] principles” as he defines them, though he would do well to take note of an action taken by another branch of Baptists.


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We, Thee & Me

Aug12

by: on August 12th, 2014 | No Comments »

I’ve been researching women in the arts and culture for a presentation next week at the Women’s International Study Center’s inaugural symposium. There’s ample information online, and it all tells an unsurprising story (if you’ve been keeping your eyes open).

Credit: Creative Commons

There’s more arts work by women out in the world, and also more work that depicts women as objects for others’ pleasure or service. Compared to a few decades ago, there are significantly more women in galleries, museums, orchestras, theaters, and so on, but nothing like a proportional representation of women in the population. At the upper levels of prestige institutional culture, women are scarce: one conducts a major orchestra, a handful head large dance companies and museums, fewer than half as many get museum and upscale gallery shows as men, etc. There’s more activism all the time, with organizations in every cultural sector working on inclusion, representation, and education to even the score. (There’s a good selection of links at WomenArts.)

Perusing the numbers, my mind leaps to a black-and-white conclusion that men, the gatekeepers, keep women out. But a report done a few years ago on gender bias in theater keeps nagging at me. Some of the findings illustrate the logic of entrenched bias. There are more male playwrights and they submit more scripts, so ipso facto, more scripts by men will be produced. To change that, you have to tinker with the supply side as well as the decision-making process: how to get more women to write and submit scripts — that isn’t exactly rocket science. In fact (albeit more gradually than the pace of change I would like to see), more women become active in each cultural field every year.

But the finding that nags me is this; in a blind study of scripts (the same script was submitted to comparable theaters, half under a man’s name, half under a woman’s), women’s plays were ranked lower in terms of quality, economic prospects, and audience response. The thing is the lower rankings were delivered by women. That’s right. Female artistic directors and literary managers ranked the script lower when a woman’s name was attached, while their male counterparts ranked the woman’s script the same as the man’s.


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My Research Is My Therapy

Aug2

by: on August 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

While contemplating the topic and eventual focus of my doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I was having difficulty deciding since so many potential directions and questions excited me. Knowing me as well as she did, my major professor offered me some guidance.

The seemingly simple but deeply profound words she uttered placed, for me, the scope of my eventual research into poignant and profound prospective driving my research agenda to this very day.

“Your research is your therapy,” she told me. Though framed as a declarative statement, she was posing in these words what I understood as a number of underlying questions. By implication, what I heard her saying was, “There are many potential directions and research questions for you to investigate. What directions and questions will challenge you to change and to grow, not merely as a researcher, not merely intellectually and academically, but also, and very importantly, personally, spiritually, ethically, emotionally, psychologically?”

I listened to my professor’s words, “Your research is your therapy,” and as I did, the bottlenecks in my mind unclogged and tears welled in my eyes. Visions of my childhood swirled in my memories settling upon a five-year-old self seated upon my maternal grandfather, Simon (Szymon) Mahler’s, lap in our cramped Bronxville, New York apartment.

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“Can We Forgive You?”: A Manifesto

Jul13

by: on July 13th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

Though I have contemplated writing this for many years, I have continually put it off because it represents thoughts and feelings I never really wanted to make visible. I believed that if I relegated them to the recesses of my consciousness, over time, they would simply evaporate sparing me the task of putting pen to paper (or more appropriately, key strokes to computer screen). But no matter how hard I have tried to let go of the pain and hurt, nonetheless, these thoughts and feelings keep resurfacing. Maybe now if I write them down, I can let go.

Credit: Creative Commons

It began for me back in 1987 when I first learned that one of my favorite writers and personalities had died in France at the relatively young age of 63. James Baldwin, essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, activist, hero to many including myself, expatriated to France where he lived much of his later life. He was attracted to the cultural and political progressivism of the Left Bank, where he could escape the pressures of Jim Crow racism and the enormity of heterosexism in the United States, and where his creative energy could soar. His numerous works directly tackled issues of race, sexuality, and socioeconomic class with an unflinching and inescapable honesty, and with a clear indictment of the corrupt systems of power that dominated his native land.

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Religion: The Gatekeeper and Denier of Human Rights?

Jul9

by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on July 9th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

The past few weeks have left me nonplussed regarding basic human rights and those decrying “infringement of their religious liberties.” It is difficult for me not to see organized religion as the common denominator of discord in the form of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and even further marginalizing those living in poverty.

Currently, President Obama is working on an executive order with the goal to be diverse and inclusive: federal contractors must not discriminate against LGBTQ people. Am I the only one who feels that this seems like basic common sense and good leadership? I thought our world leaders were charged with the task of expanding human rights and advocating for targeted populations. Sadly, “religious leaders” such as Rick Warren and Catholic Charities insist that this effort of equity infringes on their religious liberties. Need we remind Catholics of what religious infringement might look like, a la The Crusades and The Inquisition? You remember The Inquisition – those madcap Catholics just providing “tough love for heretics,” Jews, Muslims, and anyone not willing to convert to Catholicism.

In the wake of the foul Supreme Court decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which seemed like a decision made on behalf of the Catholic Pope, I am in a state of worry about how thoroughly religion dictates human rights and which religion(s) shares disproportionate power.

My understanding is that the executive order (which is not in a final draft) will not force heterosexuals to have sex with or marry people of the same sex. It will instead allow LGBTQ people a source of income – to be granted employment. Denying people employment and a way to sustain themselves and their families seems to run contrary to how I understand the purpose of religion. It leaves me asking: “who does your God hate.” Is God about hate? If we continue to travel down a road of “religious infringement” based on people who are different, how does this help to create a peaceful community of people? How does this help humans share a planet and create space for differences?

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On Safety and Umbrage

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

Have you been reading lately about “trigger warnings? “These are alerts to those who find themselves in a college classroom or other public setting, warning them that some of the material they are about to experience may upset them. The idea is that those who have had traumatic episodes – assault, for instance – might experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder if they see or read depictions of powerfully similar and evocative experiences. A piece in the New York Times back in May mentioned The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, and Greek mythology as possible “trauma triggers” identified by on-campus advocates of “trigger warnings.” The article has by now acquired nearly 1400 comments, and the conversation still seems to be picking up steam.

When I first read about this, I was reminded of my induction into gender politics many years ago. I fell in love with someone who lived in a collective household, so I moved to Portland to live with him. I had been an activist for years, but mostly in other realms – pro-peace, anti-draft, civil rights – where feminism had made incursions but was still insurgent. I’d read some of its primary texts and participated in discussions with other women, influencing my own life, to be sure. But still, nervous at my initial vetting by some of the women of the commune, I made a major faux pas: the word “chick” was still in current use in my corners of San Francisco, but in the commune, when I referred to “this chick,” it dropped like a bomb.

It only took one bomb for me to get the point. Like many children of immigrants, I’m good at picking up and internalizing the customs of the country. So I quickly learned some of them – how to talk and how to dress, things like that. But I balked at others. In a discussion of pre-teenagers, the thought-leader of the household corrected me: I should refer to “junior high school women,” not girls. (I never heard anyone say, “It’s a woman!” upon learning of a baby’s birth, but that doesn’t mean it never happened.)

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Patriarchy, Religion, & the Supreme Court

Jul1

by: on July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »

The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.”

- Justice Samuel Alito, in the majority opinion, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

Credit: Creative Commons

We can add “Justice” Samuel Alito, “Justice” Anthony Kennedy, “Justice” John Roberts, “Justice” Clarence Thomas, and last, but certainly not least, “Justice” Antonin Scalia to the oxymoron list since this Supreme Court decision amounted to anything but justice. The five men voting in the majority denied the rights of women, most particularly working-class women employees at “closely-held” (family owned with a limited number of shareholders) for-profit corporations, which actually includes most U.S. corporations, control over their reproductive freedoms generally extended to women at other companies.


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Remembering Stonewall—and Continuing the Struggle for LGBT Liberation

Jun28

by: on June 28th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Forty-five years ago on this date, New York City Police officers burst into the Stonewall Inn bar in Greenwich Village, conducting an early-morning raid to hassle the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patrons who frequented it.

Feeling they had been harassed far too long, those present at Stonewall challenged police officers by flinging bottles, rocks, bricks, trash cans, and parking meters used at battering rams. They continued to do so over the next five nights.

Even before these historic events at the Stonewall Inn, a little-known action preceded Stonewall by nearly three years, and should more likely be considered as the founding event for the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, asexual, and intersex (LGBTQAI) movement. In August 1966, at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, in what is known as the Tenderloin District in San Francisco, trans* people and gay sex workers joined in fighting police harassment and oppression. Police, conducting one of their numerous raids, entered Compton’s, and began physically harassing the clientele. This time, however, people fought back by hurling coffee at the officers and heaving cups, dishes, and trays around the cafeteria. Police retreated outside as customers smashed windows. Over the course of the next night, people gathered to picket the cafeteria, which refused to allow trans* people back inside.

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Sexism, Heterosexism, Racism, & Revelation

Jun25

by: on June 25th, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has connected a number of forms of oppression, most notably sexism, heterosexism, and racism.

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