Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gay Marriage: A PSA and a counterargument

First something funny, then something serious. Teaspoon of sugar with your medicine.

What would gay marriage look like? Check out this very educational PSA from 23/6. ;) (H/T The Bilerco Project for linking the video.)

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

(By the way, I realize this video is a spoof--duh!--but what's with the lesbians? The gay guys look like two totally average-looking (white) guys, whereas the lesbians are totally stereotypical: flannel and jean jacket clad, mullet-styled hair, super-butch. What the heck? I find it especially obnoxious when gays and straight allies (i.e. the makers of this video) employ lesbian stereotypes. How hard would it have been for one of those two women to be a little femme-y or, at least, not so over-the-top butch. Not that there's anything wrong with being butch, but not all lesbians are butch....Okay, I'm done.)

On a more serious note, earlier in the week, Renee over at Womanist Musings wrote an excellent and compelling post about how the push for gay marriage is potentially problematic, because it others those whose partnerships/relationships/sexual lifestyles do not fit into a heteronormative mold for what "marriage" should look like. I wrote something along these lines a few months ago, from a more personal perspective, but Renee articulates some of the issues of class and race inherent in the fight for gay marriage and worries, rightfully, that gay marriage will bestow privilege on those who are normative and will further disenfranchise those who are already lower on the totem pole:
Nothing can be allowed to threaten the push for gay marriage. Many have fought to dispel the social myth that gays and lesbians are naturally more promiscuous and incapable of a deep and lasting love. While I would agree with that assessment, it does not mean that for some the idea of getting married, or even settling into a long term relationship is not what is desired most.

What I dislike the most about this movement is that it is creating the idea that being gay largely means whiteness and middle class. Just like you they tell us, but who is the you that bourgeoisie leaders are using as a referential. What happens if you are poor, of colour or gay and polyamourous? What happens if you don't want to be inside the neat little package that attempts to represent your life like The Waltons only gay. What happens if you want to be a bohemian and fuck your way through life, forming no lasting attachments? What happens if you refuse to become pg13 so that someone else can create an image of homosexuality?

The issue with gay marriage as an organizing push is that it creates a construction through which homosexuality will be understood. Rather than broadening the conversation in terms of the various ways in which sexuality can be flexible, it narrows the lens and creates an ideal that is ultimately limiting. It will do nothing to disturb the homo/hetero binary.
This is not to say (and Renee's not saying this either) that gay marriage isn't something for which we should fight. However, we shouldn't forget that the fight for the right to marriage is not, by a long shot, the only thing affecting the gay community. What about hate crime legislation? Equal housing? Job discrimination? Equal rights to adopt and foster? Not to mention advocating for those in the LGBTQ community who live below the poverty line and who probably won't have access (for financial or other reasons) to gay marriage even if it does become legal. Let's not lose sight of all the other battles the LGBTQ community and its allies need to fight. Marriage, as important as it is--especially symbolically--will not bring about full equality. We still have a long way to go.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Now I know how complicated women's lives really are

How do I know this, you ask? Well, a little beer ad told me! So it has to be true.

Care of Sociological Images, these Goldstar Beer ads really get to the heart of the matter. Women's lives are incredibly complex. We have to decide what to wear, angst about whether or not our drunken hook-ups will lead to marriage (if not, we'll be heartbroken), and negotiate the anxious social dance of pairing up to go to the bathroom. By contrast, men have it easy. All they need is beer. Isn't that great? Women just need to simplify. Like men. And drink more beer.

(Click images to enlarge)

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Pledging to post about women in technology

My friend Lauren sent me a link to a PledgeBank sign-up to dedicate FWF on March 24 to blog for Ada Lovelace day, something Suw Charman-Anderson is organizing across the blogosphere to feature women and technology. Check it out and sign up to participate on your own blog! Here's Suw's call:
Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women's contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.
Ada Lovelace was one of the world's first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fair Pay Act

Just a very quick post to let you all know that the House and Senate will vote this week and next, respectively, on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. This act would help make pay equity for women a reality.

Click here to contact your state representatives and urge them to vote YES on the Fair Pay Act!

H/T Echidne of the Snakes

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Melissa Etheridge and Rick Warren redux

Since New Years, the whole Rick Warren debacle has faded somewhat from my mind (which, I'll admit, it probably shouldn't have), but then Melissa Etheridge has to go and dredge it all up again, reprising her role as arbitrator of what the LGBTQ community should think.

Courtesy of The Bilerco Project comes this NPR interview (which I'm surprised I missed since NPR is pretty much on 24 hours at our house):
And I just want to make sure that as the liberals and progressives and Democrats or whatever you want to call us are moving into this new time with this new president do not say that they, the evangelicals who say such horrible things about gays, they have to stay over here and we're not going to let them in. That makes us no better than the last administration.

Just because he [compares gays to incest or polygamy] does not mean I have to not speak to him, or don't ever want to be in his company. We had a crazy experience at the Muslim Public Affairs Council conference...We met, we spoke. He's a fine person...He said he was trying to make the definition of marriage not change, not necessarily saying that gays are pedophiles or any of that stuff. One can draw whatever they want from that. This is what he told me.

TBP's Michael Crawford writes "Hav[ing] gay celebs like Melissa Etheridge making excuses for anti-gay leaders like Rick Warren does us no good," and I completely agree with him. That said, I do take issue with his suggestion that she just "shut up and sing," which, to me, smacks of the idea that Etheridge has no worthy opinions to express and that artists (particularly female artists?) should be seen and not heard, so to speak. That's bullshit (and it may be that that's not what Michael meant, but nevertheless that particularly phrasing made me uneasy). However, I do wish Etheridge would stop telling the LGBTQ community that we need to let the Warrens of the world into our hearts. Let's see some contrition on the sides of the evangelical right and then I might think about offering an olive branch.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2008 Weblog Awards

Check out and vote in the 2008 Weblog Awards! While I certainly haven't read every blog in every category (far from it--my Google Reader's overloaded enough as it is), I do have a few favorites, listed below the cut. There are 45 categories, so, suffice it to say, the list below is not complete; you'll have to check out the site for all the awesome blogs. Voting ends at 5pm EST on Tuesday, January 13, 2009, and you can cast your vote every 24 hours so get to it!

Aviva's picks for the 2008 Weblog Awards
(These picks do not express the views of all the contributors here at Fourth Wave, just me)

Best Blog: Huffington Post

Best Comic Strip: xkcd (I also enjoy Town Called Dobson)

Best Liberal Blog: Shakesville

Best LGBT Blog: The Bilerco Project

Best Pet Blog: Cute Overload

Best Food Blog: epicurious

Best Fashion Blog: Go Fug Yourself

Best Podcast: This American Life

Best Major Blog (Authority over 1001): PostSecret

Best Very Large Blog (Authority between 501 and 1000): Bitch PhD

Best Large Blog (Authority between 301 and 500): Mombian: Sustenance for Lesbian Moms

Best Midsize Blog (Authority between 201 and 300): Hoyden About Town

Happy Voting!

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Male Authenticy

(A surprise visit to relatives ate up all of my writing time this weekend, so instead of anything remotely original, this post turned into an impassioned rant. My apologies.)

I'm really pissed at this thread. Specifically, at the person in the thread who goes by the name of 'Chinese Gorden'. Yes, I am aware that complaining about Internet trolls is a pointless exercise, but this person was unusually interesting/horrible.

To spare you the trouble of reading the thread for yourself, somebody made an announcement for a show by a all-female cover band (DandeLion, which is fairly good, to judge by their myspace). The Troll trolled in with an offhand remark that women just couldn't really play rock music. Needless to say, other (more sensible) people tried to jump in and refute him, they did a poor job (since he's a professional troll), and he ended up getting the last stupid word. Predictable, I know. But here's the interesting quote:

Rock-and-roll almost has to be 'male' to be authentic.It has to be ugly and raw and sexual and in-your-face and unpleasant and powerful. It has to imply rebellion. It's about standing up on your hind legs in your life and in your music.

Great rock and roll is not passive, feminine, playing-by-the-rules, having babies, having a hobby, being someone's bitch, staying neat and clean, avoiding a fight, wearing skirts and makeup, playing-it-safe....

Leaving aside that this is one of the silliest definitions of 'rock and roll' ever, notice the first sentence: "Rock-and-roll almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."

How many other subjects could that sentence have been about, and still be seen as true by many, many people?

"Science almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."
"Professional sports almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."
"Business management almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."
"Building things almost has to be 'male' to be authentic.".
In general:
"Earning a living almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."
How about:
"Technical writing almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."
"Journalism almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."
"Reasoning and logic almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."
and, for that matter
"Sex almost has to be 'male' to be authentic."

It almost seems, that for any thing that actually matters, "[noun] almost has to be 'male' to be authentic." In other words, male=good, female=bad. And women need to become more male in order to matter. Even very well-meaning individuals sometimes fall victim to this attitude. Take this otherwise excellent article:
So what flaws can female characters have? Uh, I don’t know. How about the same flaws a male character would have?

Now, I'm not sure that the author really meant it, but that almost sounds like "Male characters are just fine - now let's make female characters just like them!"

Perhaps I'm just in a screw-the-gender-binary sort of mood, but I believe that everybody tries to apply this concept to real life, too. Men want women to be like them, but not too much, of course. Feminists want women to be almost just like men, to accomplish the same things, etc. Unless, of course, they want to be the same 'tough slut' types that men like - and that's okay, too. I'm certainly guilty of this myself - I'm a femmeish lesbian - guess what kind of women I'm attracted to!

Why can't we admire feminine individuals for themselves, both women and men? Why are certain concepts, power or intelligence or rebellion or creativity or even simple non-object value almost always associated with being, at least, somewhat masculine.

It's something we all need to work on.

On the other hand...

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Feminist Flashback #18

Sorry for the delay with this (last?) week's Feminist Flashback; I'm still behind from my travels and feeling some post-holiday inertia! This week's Flashback is an excerpt from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, an amazing (and very feminist) short story from 1892. Complete text can be found here for free and here for sale (and you really should read the whole thing if you haven't already).

This is the first section:
It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.
A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity but that would be asking too much of fate!
Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it.
Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?
John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.
John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.
John is a physician, and -- perhaps (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.
You see he does not believe I am sick!
And what can one do?
If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency -- what is one to do?
My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.
So I take phosphates or phospites -- whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again.
Personally, I disagree with their ideas.
Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
But what is one to do?
I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal -- having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.
I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus -- but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.
So I will let it alone and talk about the house.
The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.
There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.
There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.
There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and coheirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.
That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don't care -- there is something strange about the house -- I can feel it.
I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window.
I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.
But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself -- before him, at least, and that makes me very tired.
I don't like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.
He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another.
He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.
I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.
He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. "Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear," said he, "and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time." So we took the nursery at the top of the house.
It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.
The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it. It is stripped off -- the paper -- in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.
One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.
It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide -- plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.
No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long.
There comes John, and I must put this away, -- he hates to have me write a word.

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