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Archive for the ‘Gender and Sexuality’ Category



Questions of Masculinity in Force Majeure

Mar24

by: Ethan J. Leib on March 24th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

A traffic sign suggesting for men to hold women's hands as they cross the street.

The film Force Majeure forces us to examine exactly what masculine stereotypes we are trying to abolish, and why. Credit: CreativeCommons / Keoni Cabral.

As a legal scholar, I can tell you that the legal term “force majeure” usually refers to acts of God – earthquakes, hurricanes, and avalanches – that serve to relieve parties’ performance obligations in a contract. In a cleverly-titled film that should have been an Oscar contender this year – Force Majeure by Ruben Ӧstlund, now available for streaming on Netflix – the avalanche never really occurs and the performance obligations of masculinity are never really relieved. The film depicts a man who fails to live up to conventional expectations of manliness in the face of a threatened “act of God” but shows us something potentially more embarrassing still: that the command to be a man may itself be a literal force majeure; a superior force, emerging from the force of desire. Modern feminism has been slow to recognize that an unreconstructed female libido that reinforces male performances of masculinity threatens to stand in the way of a full and robust sexual equality.

Force Majeure presents us with the discomfiting challenge that the quest for sex equality – the commitment to unwind patterns of patriarchy and have a society that values men and women equally – may require much more than futzing at the margins of our laws. Instead, it may require rewiring libidinal urges. This isn’t quite like trying to undo a natural law but it may be a clawing away at the foundations of life in marriage and monogamy. The movie helps us see that marriage as an institution and women themselves are invested in performances of masculinity. This doesn’t mean we can remain resigned to material inequality caused by patterns of male domination. But it may mean that we need to have more uncomfortable conversations about the deep ways the desire for masculinity – by women, in particular – continues to structure male performances of masculinity. This structure of desire keeps us living in a gender conformist world that prescribes scripts feminists say they are eager to cast aside.


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Florida Proposes “Stand Outside My Loo” Law

Mar20

by: on March 20th, 2015 | Comments Off

A sign for a unisex bathroom.

Florida is proposing a law that would impose criminal penalties on those who knowingly enter restrooms of a sex not designated on their birth certificates, implicitly discriminating against transgender citizens. Credit: CreativeCommons / Matthew Rutledge.

Florida, one of the states known for its infamous so-called “stand your ground” law (“justifiable use of force” law), has now proposed standing its patriarchal ground once again, this time in its “Single Sex Facilities” (what I am calling its “Stand Out of My Loo”) law. If passed by the state legislature, CS/HB 583 would impose criminal penalties on persons who knowingly enter restrooms of a sex not designated on their birth certificates.

Sponsors of this clearly discriminatory bill designed it specifically to ban trans* people from using restrooms that most closely align with their gender identities. Legislators see the writing on the bathroom walls signaling the establishment of gender inclusive restroom facilities throughout the nation, which have existed in a number of nations around the world for decades.

Some may refer to these spaces as “gender neutral,” though “gender inclusive” has become the preferred terminology to describe a space – most notably restrooms and floors in college and university dormitories and in many businesses – denoting a cite of inclusion welcoming individuals of all genders and gender identities and expressions. The terminology “gender neutral” overlooks the actual hierarchal power dynamics among genders, and the implications on the lived experiences of virtually everyone in our society.

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Farmworker Women Speaking Up on Domestic Violence

Mar9

by: Brenda Rincon on March 9th, 2015 | Comments Off

(Crossposted from New America Media)

Editor’s Note: This article was produced as part of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, a program of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Names have been changed in this story for the protection of the victim.

Latino farmworkers picking tomatoes in a field.

Female farmworkers are arguably the most reluctant victims to report domestic abuse, not least because they (and their abusers) are often undocumented immigrants.

Alicia Montes was only 16 when she fell in love with Juan Alvarez in the courtyard of the trailer park where she lived with her father and siblings.

“I was abandoned as a child by my mother, and I was looking for the love of a parent,” she says in Spanish. “I thought I loved him, but now I see I did not.”

At the time, Montes could not imagine that charming young man would come to shove, choke, and kick her as he did throughout their 15-year relationship.

Montes, now 33, is one of an unknown number of victims of domestic violence in the Eastern Coachella Valley – a largely impoverished agricultural community with approximately 56,000 residents, about 20 miles east of Palm Springs -and one of the few to report her abuser to authorities.

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Fifty Shades of Jihad

Feb23

by: on February 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

 

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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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