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Alas, a Blogroll
- Adam Becker: Freelance Astrophysicist
- Emily Nagoski :: sex nerd ::
- The Bad Men Project
- The Feminist Librarian
- Today I Am A Man
- Paper Cuts and Plastic
- Geek Feminism Blog
- Walking Upstream
- The Fat Nutritionist
- The Beheld
- Feminists Fighting Transphobia
- Mythago Performs A Blog
- Art at the Auction
- Kelly Thinks Too Much
- Gloria Mundi
- Election Law Blog
- The Pervocracy
- The Closet Puritan
- Nuclear Unicorn
- The Debate Link
- The Hathor Legacy
- Disability and Representation
- Man Boobz
- A Feminist Challenging Transphobia
- Long Story; Short Pier
- Red No. 3
- The Incidental Economist
- Fannie's Room
- Let Them Eat Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces
- The Overthinker
- Muslimah Media Watch
- Adam Becker: Freelance Astrophysicist
Francis Schmidt [...] posted a picture of his young daughter doing yoga in a T-shirt with the new “Game of Thrones” season tagline in January, upon release of the trailer. The T-shirt reads, “I will take what is mine in fire and blood,” and Schmidt’s cat lurks in the photo background.
But one contact — a dean — who was notified automatically via Google that the picture had been posted apparently took it as a threat. In an email, Jim Miller, the college’s executive director for human resources, told Schmidt to meet with him and two other administrators immediately in light of the “threatening email.”
The fail is too big! It burns! It burns! It has cold blue eyes and comes out of the North…
Popehat has more on this, including links to a bunch of similarly ludicrous and infuriating overreactions.
Conor Friedersdorf and I both oppose economically punishing people for opposition to same-sex marriage, or for having donated to the prop 8 campaign.
But Conor’s argument is, partly, that SSM opponents are morally superior to those who favored anti-miscegenation laws, and those who compare the two are being unfair to SSM opponents.
Opposition to interracial marriage was all but synonymous with a belief in the superiority of one race and the inferiority of another. (In fact, it was inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation that has done more damage to America and its people than anything else, and that ranks among the most obscene crimes in history.)
Opposition to gay marriage can be rooted in the insidious belief that gays are inferior, but it’s also commonly rooted in the much-less-problematic belief that marriage is a procreative institution, not one meant to join couples for love and companionship alone.
One thing I’ve noticed in this debate is how unfamiliar proponents of stigma are with thoughtful orthodox Christians—that is to say, they haven’t interacted with them personally, critiqued the best version of their arguments, or even been exposed to the most sophisticated version of their reasoning, which I find to be obviously earnest, if ultimately unpersuasive.1
A few points:
1) I have interacted with orthodox Christians, critiqued their best arguments, and closely read many arguments SSM opponents have identified as their best (such as Robert George’s “What Is Marriage”?). As a co-blogger at the Institute for American Values blog, I had the opportunity to discuss issues with some of the country’s leading opponents of marriage equality, including David Blankenhorn, Elizabeth Marquardt, and Maggie Gallagher (David and Elizabeth, to their credit, have since switched sides on the marriage equality issue).
But I have to wonder, has Conor been exposed to the most sophisticated arguments in favor of anti-miscegenation laws?
Virginia Assistant Attorney General R. D. McIlwaine III, defending anti-miscegenation laws to the Supreme Court in Loving vs Virginia, argued that interracial marriages, like incestuous or child marriages, should be prohibited for the good of the people in those marriages:
It is clear from the most recent available evidence on the psycho-sociological aspect of this question that intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems than those of the intramarried; And that the state’s prohibition of interracial marriage for this reason stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage or the prescription of minimum ages at which people may marry and the prevention of the marriage of people who are mentally incompetent.
McIlwaine went on to argue – of course – that permitting interracial marriage would be bad for children.
Now if the state has an interest in marriage, if it has an interest in maximizing the number of stable marriages and in protecting the progeny of interracial marriages from these problems, then clearly. there is scientific evidence available that is so. It is not infrequent that the children of intermarried parents are referred to not merely as the children of intermarried parents but as the ‘victims’ of intermarried parents and as the ‘martyrs’ of intermarried parents.
Now, perhaps Conor would say that in context, McIlwaine’s arguments were “inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation,” and I’d agree. But McIlwaine himself would probably have denied that, and his arguments did not explicitly call on white supremacy, any more than the arguments of sophisticated opponents of marriage equality explicitly call on heterosexual supremacy. In fact, many opponents of interracial marriage, back when that was a respectable position, argued that their positions had nothing at all to do with prejudice, and that to tar them with such accusations was unfair. Sound familiar?
The distinction Conor makes between interracial marriage opponents and SSM opponents doesn’t actually exist. The more sophisticated arguments against interracial marriage avoided overt racial supremacy, instead relying on concepts like the good of society, the good of children, and (of course) natural and biblical law. Again, sound familiar?
2. Conor makes an incredibly weak argument when he writes that modern opponents of SSM are morally superior to opponents of interracial marriage because civil unions.
Opposition to interracial marriage never included a large contingency that was happy to endorse the legality of black men and white women having sex with one another, living together, raising children together, and sharing domestic-partner benefits as long as they didn’t call it a marriage.
Does that clarify the inaptness of the comparison?
In the context of the 1960s and before, the “they should have sex outside of marriage” position was simply not available to respectable public figures. So it’s true that the modern way for SSM opponents to be “moderates” was never used by interracial marriage opponents.
But interracial marriage opponents could and did position themselves as moderates, for instance by supporting the Utah approach (in which interracial marriage was a misdemeanor rather than a felony, and interracial marriages performed outside of Utah were legally recognized) rather than the more drastic North Carolina approach (which declared interracial marriage a “infamous crime” punishable with up to ten years in prison). Some interracial marriage opponents didn’t even want it made illegal at all, and argued that community stigma was the way to deter interracial marriages.
3. Like Conor, I oppose organized boycotts against individuals because they oppose same-sex marriage. But the distinction he draws between SSM opponents and interracial marriage opponents is simply wrong – a product of short historical memory. The opponents of interracial marriage were not inhuman monsters; they believed they were acting for the greater good, and did not consider themselves hateful bigots. Beyond a doubt, some of them were good people in many ways – charitable, kind to others (including to people of color). Some of them loved their children and were pillars of their communities. Some of them were at least as smart as any of us. And their better arguments did not overtly rely on white supremacy.
And it was nonetheless true that their anti-equality views were, as Conor says, “inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation.” Even when their arguments were not explicitly white supremacist, they still implicitly relied on white supremacy. Without an unspoken social consensus in favor of white supremacy – in favor of a belief that non-white people’s well-being has only trivial importance, and that sacrificing the well-being of non-white people is therefore justified even when the good being achieved is obviously nebulous at best – the seemingly “non-racial” arguments against interracial marriage had no foundation.
Exactly the same thing is true of anti-SSM arguments today, including the “sophisticated” arguments Conor refers to.2 The more sophisticated arguments against gay marriage carefully avoid overt homophobia. But they only make sense in the context of a homophobic society, which is why they increasingly lose purchase as our society becomes less homophobic.
Without an unspoken social consensus in favor of homosexual inferiority – in favor of a belief that lesbian and gay people’s well-being has only trivial importance, and that sacrificing the well-being of queer people is justified even when the good being achieved is nebulous at best – these seemingly “non-homphobic” arguments against gay marriage have no foundation. In this way, the “sophisticated” arguments against gay marriage are just as based in homophobia as the “sophisticated” arguments against interracial marriage were based in racism.
4. I don’t think that people who are opposed to marriage equality now – or, for that matter, people who were opposed to interracial marriage in the 1960s – are or were inherently bad people. Most of us are neither moral monsters or ahead-of-our-time moral prodigies. Instead, for the most part, we pick up our morality from what the people around us believe. Those of us who believe in marriage equality have, I am sure, a morally better position. But most of us don’t hold that position because we are inherently more moral people than those who disagree. Rather, most of us were just born into a place and a time in which we were raised to believe in the equal dignity and worth of queer people, and as a result we have either always been in favor of marriage equality, or easily adopted that position once it became socially acceptable.3
My point is not that those who oppose SSM aren’t responsible for their own views and choices. People make their own choices, and can choose to oppose beliefs they were raised with, as the huge numbers of people who have changed their minds and now favor marriage equality have proven.
My point, instead, is that a simple “moral monsters versus decent people” analysis – whether it’s Conor’s contrasting of interracial marriage opponents versus SSM opponents, or the folks on the left who want opponents of SSM driven from their neighborhoods – is an unrealistic model of a much more complicated human reality.
- Note: In Friedersdorf’s article, the “One thing I’ve noticed” paragraph is a footnote, but since I’m going to refer to it in this post I’ve “promoted” it. [↩]
- Conor explicitly refers to “the much-less-problematic belief that marriage is a procreative institution, not one meant to join couples for love and companionship alone.” But that argument, which is based on natural law theory, is entangled with natural law arguments that homosexuality is intrinsically morally inferior to heterosexuality. [↩]
- This is true not just for heterosexuals, but for everyone. Being a homosexual doesn’t make one immune to absorbing society’s homophobia, unfortunately, any more than Jews are immune to anti-semitism, etc etc.. [↩]
David Neiwert created this meme on Facebook, and it seemed like a good way to waste time to me. :-)
1. City Of Lost Children (1995)
2. Duck Soup (1933)
3. Passion Fish (1992, an obscure gem)
4. Mulan (1998)
5. Sweeney Todd (the Angela Landsbury version, not the it-never-happened Depp version). (1982)
6. Arthur (It was rerun on HBO at least twice a day when I was 15. The entire cast is great, but Gielgud steals the movie.) (1981)
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
8. Ran (1985)
9. Midnight Run (Blistering hot NYC summer, nearby theater had this movie and air conditioning. Sarah and I saw it over and over, and enjoyed it every time.) (1988)
10. Cyrano de Bergerac (1990 version with Depardieu.)
11. The Purple Rose of Cairo. (1985) Actually, there are several Woody Allen films I’ve seen over a dozen times – Bullets Over Broadway, Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters – but I think I’ve seen PROC the most. (It wouldn’t surprise me if Allison Deutsch Andersen could do an entire list of ten films she’s seen ten times or more just from Woody Allen’s catalog.)
12. Supercop. (1992) Jackie Chan climbs everything in sight, and Michelle Yeoh jumps a motorcycle onto a moving train. What more could I want?
13. Much Ado About Nothing, the Kenneth Branagh version. (1993)
14. Groundhog Day (1993)
1) It makes me kind of sad to realize that I haven’t seen most of these films in at least ten years. I don’t watch films as intensely anymore, and certainly don’t rewatch films as much as I used to. To some degree this is because I’m more likely to watch TV nowadays (nearly done with “True Detective”), but it’s mainly because I have so much less spare time than I used to.
1.5) Half the 14 came out in the 1990s. Another five came out in the 1980s.
2) Of the 14, 3 (Passion Fish, Mulan, Purple Rose) have female protagonists. 6 have male protagonists, and 5 have female and male co-protagonists. Only 5 – City of Lost Children, Passion Fish, Mulan, Sweeney Todd, and Crouching Tiger – pass the Bechdel test.
Five of the movies have non-white protagonists or co-protagonists, but that includes some movies that were made in Asian countries.
So what movies have you seen over ten times?
A couple of brief updates:
I. Mind Meld in the Tardis
Even though I was late turning it in (due to finding a four-day-old kitten in our backyard and trying to figure out how to take care of it!), Mind Meld has kindly published my entry on Where I Would Take the Tardis.
I want to go on a between-TV-episodes trip. I want to go on a boring trip.
II. Dark Matter Interview
I was also recently interviewed by Dark Matter zine about my participation as the reprint editor for the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed magazzine. The interview was a lot of fun and included other people who’d been working on the issue, Galen Dara and Wendy N. Wagner.
I said I’d put together a list of reference materials for the interview, and I still will, although it’s of course massively late now. ;)
III. Little Reprinted Faces
Earlier this year, Strange Horizons asked me to choose a story for their quarterly reprint slot. I picked Vonda McIntyre’s completely awesome “Little Faces.”
I wrote an intro about it, which couldn’t do the story justice:
Vonda N. McIntyre is a sophisticated feminist science fiction writer and “Little Faces” is a sophisticated feminist science fiction story, operating on many levels, including attention-grabbing science, an interesting plot, and political and social critique that blends into the character’s emotional arc.
The story does more than treat readers to flashy visuals and awesome far-future stuff. For instance, it analyzes serious issues, like female-on-female violence and the meaning of consent. It plays with the audience’s expectations by defaulting female instead of male.
If I were a better person, I might write about that.
Instead, I’m going to write about alien sex.
And I’m very pleased that the story is now online (again, since it was originally published online) for people to enjoy:
The blood woke Yalnis. It ran between her thighs, warm and slick, cooling, sticky. She pushed back from the stain on the silk, bleary with sleep and love, rousing to shock and stabbing pain.
She flung off the covers and scrambled out of bed. She cried out as the web of nerves tore apart. Her companions shrieked a chaotic chorus.
It’s also in audio.
So some Portlanders are organizing a boycott of Moreland Farmers Pantry, a not-yet-open grocery specializing in GMO-free foods, because it has been discovered that the owners of the story are anti-marriage-equality and have said so in Facebook postings. (A secondary issue is that one of the store’s co-owners linked to a libertarian article arguing that stores should have the legal right to refuse to serve gay customers). The boycott includes publishing a list of vendors who are working with MFP, so that readers can encourage those vendors to cut off relations with the not-yet-open store.
Here’s the comment I posted on their facebook page about a half-hour ago. (Regular “Alas” readers will notice that I adapted some text from a post I wrote about Mozilla last week.)
Speaking as a Portlander who has gathered signatures, made phone calls, and knocked on doors to support marriage equality, I very much disagree with this boycott.
Do you really think trying to drive people who disagree with us out of business is a good way to persuade people who disagree with us? Is a society in which people are economically punished for speaking out on a currently live controversy, the kind of society you want?
Three reasons I think this boycott is misguided:
1. It goes against what I think of as a “free speech culture” to try and drive small stores out of business because of the owners’ statements on current political controversies. Although there’s no government censorship going on here, we can and should want more from a society than just “no one was thrown in jail.” Truly open and free speech – substantive free speech – won’t exist if people are afraid of being economically destroyed if they speak out on current issues.
2) It doesn’t actually advance the cause of marriage equality in any significant way. If anything, it hurts the cause, by giving our opponents ammunition for their “gay bullies” argument.
3) It encourages people to think of politics as a matter of maintaining personal purity through choosing the correct store to shop at, rather than making meaningful change.
(I totally acknowledge that you have a free speech right to criticize, and to boycott, the Childs. But I likewise have a right to criticize your boycott.)
The owners of the boycott page deleted my comment. I wanted to ask them why, but they’ve blocked me from leaving any other comments, so I can’t.
Local restaurant owner Nick Zukin has publicly (and intemperately) disagreed with the boycott, on similar grounds to my objection, and some folks on Facebook have suggested that his restaurant should now be boycotted in turn.
I can just make up outfits on the fly, rather than stopping drawing pages to design an outfit, but the resulting clothing tends to be extremely repetitive and bland. Much better to try and think the outfit through, and wind up with something that doesn’t look exactly like all the other outfits I’ve drawn Fruma in. (Although it’s clear that Fruma likes horizontal stripes, since I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve used horizontal strips in one of her outfits.) I haven’t shown Fruma wearing boots before, but this story takes place in the autumn, so I think boots make sense.
I like this outfit; it seems to occupy a point partway between frumpy and pirate.
When I originally wrote this, the crowd-funding campaign for funding this book was still ongoing. It’s over now—but yay, it succeeded! Here’s what I wrote about it.
Cranky Ladies of History: Annie Oakley
Several months ago, Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner Roberts contacted me and asked if I would consider writing a story for their anthology, Cranky Ladies of History. “That sounds awesome,” I said, and also, “I so don’t have time.” But I agreed to do it anyway, partially because I (and all SFWAns, but especially me) owe Tansy Rayner Roberts a huge debt for her work on the interim issue of the Bulletin, which she co-edited brilliantly and in a ridiculously short amount of time. But also because this was an easy favor to grant—because come on, Cranky Ladies of History, how cool is that?
I spent some time in IM talking to Tansy about which Cranky Lady I should pick. Tzu Shi? Agrippina? Mary Anning? Ada Lovelace? Eventually, we decided on Annie Oakley.
You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun
If you don’t know who she is, Annie Oakley was a sharpshooter with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. She grew up in poverty which necessitated that she learn to shoot so that she could help feed the family. After joining the Wild West Show, Annie became a hugely successful performer, especially groundbreaking as a woman.
She had a complicated relationship with feminism: she taught women to shoot, and she advocated for women to be allowed in the army. On other important women’s rights issues of the day, she wasn’t in synch with the feminist position. For instance, she opposed women’s suffrage.
Although the musical that was made about her life story, Annie Get Your Gun, includes the song, “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” she sort of did. She married Frank Butler after beating him in a shooting competition.
I Can Do Anything You Can Do Better
With her gun, Annie Oakley could:
Shoot distant targets by sighting through a mirror
Shoot holes in thrown playing cards before they landed
Snuff a candle
Shoot a cigarette out of a man’s mouth
Shoot the cork off of a bottle
There’s No Business Like Show Business
Annie Oakley was an extremely highly paid performer, and she’s been called America’s first female superstar. One interesting aspect of her show biz persona was her conservative dress style. Pictures show a stiff, strong-featured woman with long brown hair, wearing loose blouses and calf-length skirts with boots. She often wears fringe, bolo ties, and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat.
In the photographs that don’t look posed, she stands in a masculine style, displaying no submissiveness or apology.
Doin’ What Comes Nat’rally
I first learned about Annie Oakley as a kid from the musical, Annie Get Your Gun, which is a fictionalized version of her life. I wonder whether the real Annie Oakley might be annoyed by the way it’s shaped around her relationship with a man. The plot begins when she meets Frank Butler and ends when they go to the altar.
The music is by Irving Berlin and the book is by Dorothy and Herbert Fields. It’s an old-fashioned musical with racist moments such as the song “I An Injun, Too.” Songs like “Doin’ What Comes Nat’rally” also romanticize the poverty she grew up in while maintaining a condescending attitude toward the rural poor.
The musical also features a lot of hits, including “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
My father had an abbreviated medley of songs from Annie Get Your Gun on a piano roll for his 88-key upright player piano. While he pumped, I used to sit on the rug behind the piano bench, and sing along.
In college, I saw the show on Broadway with Bernadette Peters as the lead. I have a soft spot in my heart for “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”
The greatest woman rifle shot the world has ever produced
There’s a lot of research ahead of me as I decide what to write about Annie, her gun, and all those shot up playing cards. I don’t yet know what story I have to tell about her, but I look forward to the books and documentaries that will help me find it.