On #mooreandme, Rachel Maddow, and the curse of “Being Grateful”

December 21, 2010 § 4 Comments

by ELENA

Today, my Internet exploded.

It started with Keith Olbermann inexplicably responding to my tweets about the #mooreandme protest, and ended with Michael Moore’s appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show, which is being filmed live this week at the 92nd Street Y.

The interview can be found here, and I shall paraphrase it as such:

Maddow introduced Moore by discussing when leaked information is inaccurate, and then discussed the specifics of the charges against Julian Assange, which she referred to as “date rape.” She then introduced Michael Moore, who mentioned several interesting things:

1. That he founded a rape crisis center in Flint, Michigan.
2. That he believes that rape allegations should be taken seriously.
3. That he supports WikiLeaks because of how he was raised as a Christian.

No, really.

Now, I am not going to question Moore’s faith, but I wonder if he ever read John 8, in which Jesus saves a “sinning woman” from being stoned to death (the common punishment for any sex-related offense) by saying, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NRSV). Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann have encouraged people to throw (figurative) stones at Assange’s complainants by labeling their allegations as “a smear/hooey/a CIA conspiracy/etc.”

After briefly discussing sexual assault, Moore went on to talk about war crimes/Bradley Manning’s detention/etc. Neither Moore nor Maddow mentioned the #mooreandme movement on Twitter by name, and Michael Moore did not apologize for the comments he made on Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Rachel Maddow did not press Moore further on the comments he made, and Maddow has not mentioned the #mooreandme movement on her Twitter page (although it was mentioned on @Maddowblog).

I honestly hope Rachel Maddow didn’t think: “I don’t want to bring up this Moore and Me protest too specifically because I don’t want to piss off the live audience.” I honestly hope Michael Moore didn’t think: “Well, maybe if I say that I really, really, really don’t like rape, and I bring up that one time when I formed a rape crisis center, those feminists on Twitter will stop bothering me.”

There has been a lot of celebration on Twitter about the fact that a prominent filmmaker within the progressive movement did the truly shocking thing of briefly mentioning that sexual assault should be taken seriously. I am not “happy,” “excited,” or “grateful” that Moore said what he did on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. People who expect endless praise for the simple act of recognizing that rape allegations are not something to take lightly remind me of my 8-year-old self, who expected bottomless rewards for doing things like cleaning my room and loading the dishwasher.

I’m sure someone, somewhere out on the Internet (maybe Keith O. himself!) is thinking, “He said rape was bad! Isnt that what you wanted? Why can’t you [optional expletive] feminists be grateful about anything?”

Problem is, “Be Grateful” is a very dangerous phrase.

Workers are told “Why do you want to cause trouble by starting a union? You should be grateful that you even have a job.”

Women are still told “We gave you the vote — what more do you want? Why aren’t you grateful for everything we do for you?”

People whose race and ethnic background aren’t “Caucasian” are told “Look, racial equality comes slowly. You should be grateful for all of the achievements [insert minority racial/ethnic group here] have made already.”

Those who fight for rights of queer identified people are constantly told that progress on marriage equality/the implementation of the DADT appeal/adoption/rights and visibility for the transgender community are constantly told that “Progress comes slowly.”

When my mother was my age, her family were recipients of Christmas food, clothing, and toy drives. She couldn’t complain about eating dented cans of pimentos, or having to wear clothes that didn’t fit, or getting used or broken toys for Christmas because that would make her sound “ungrateful.” When she talks about those Christmases of cheap grace, she starts to cry.

“Be Grateful” frequently means “Don’t ask questions; it’s not your place to ask us why we discriminate against you, withold basic rights from you, or think you only deserve the dented cans of food to eat.” I frequently wonder if people say “Progress Comes Slowly” as a way for justify the harmful systems that do prevent positive change. If we think that progress happens slowly, then, more often than not, we will act slowly.

I will congratulate Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann when they simply apologize for their harmful and inaccurate comments, mention the many talented writers who powered #mooreandme, and pay more attention to how the rape culture harms everyone.

And Keith, if you want proof that feminists are fairly courteous, mature, and not a “reactionary” coven out to get you, I would be more than happy to appear on your show. All I ask in return is that my airfare and hotel costs are covered, and that you show up to your news desk with an open mind.

In Which A Teenager is Awesome

November 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

Jay McDowell, a high school teacher in Michigan, was recently suspended for reprimanding a student who allegedly walked into his classroom and said: “I do not support gay individuals.” (I agree with the linked Queerty writer who doubts that “gay individuals” was the actual word choice; it’s likely that some colorful slurs were used instead.) A 14-year-old student was videotaped speaking in defense of McDowell at a school board meeting. Graeme Taylor (or possibly Graham Taylor — there’s some discrepancy regarding his name, forgive me for the uncertainty), who is gay, delivered a beautiful speech. I’ve transcribed it below.

My father is Kirk Taylor, he’s a teacher at Hartland, and he tells me about things that go on in this area. It seems like a nice community. I myself am gay and I’m a young person, and that can cause lots of trouble. And when you hear of things like Dr. King’s speech that one day he wanted his grandchildren, his posterity, to not be judged on the color of their skin but the content of their character, I hope that one day we too can be judged on the content of our character and not who we love. Howell [Michigan] is the headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan. Does that really sound great on your racism record? The fact that they chose this city to come into? And you probably want to get rid of that. So how would you like more headlines of “Howell denies gays,” “Howell doesn’t protect them.” This teacher, whom I fully support, finally stood up and said something. I have been in rooms, in classrooms, where children have said the worst kinds of things. The kinds of things that helped drive me to a suicide attempt when I was only nine years old. These are the things that hurt a lot. There’s a silent holocaust out there in which an estimated six million gay people every year kill themselves. Is this really the environment we want for our school? Do we really want this on our record? Now, I’m saying that the best thing you can do right now is just give him his pay for that day, and just reverse the disciplinary actions. He did an amazing thing. He did something that’s inspired a lot of people. And whenever, ever, I have a teacher stand up for me like that, they change in my eyes. I support Jay McDowell, and I hope you do too.

Happy Coming Out Day!

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

Today is National Coming Out Day. Why do we mark this event? Because coming out is awesome! What could be more delightful than celebrating your identity? I’m a fan.

The queer community at my school organized an event in the main plaza with music, rainbow flags, and a physical closet door that you could open and walk through. They also made a bunch of OUT and ALLY pins. I had class but was able to swing by towards the end of the event, hoping to pick up an ALLY button. Which means that I didn’t get a pin, but also that hundreds of my peers were excited about publicly declaring their alliance with the queer community. Sweet.

One more thing: This day is a wonderful opportunity to come out and to talk about the process of doing so. What’s not so wonderful, but what I’ve seen illustrated on more than one occasion, is the subtle implication that if you’re not ready to come out, you’ve somehow failed at the equality cause.

But sometimes that pressure can be negative, and I’d just like to say that rushing someone “out” is not constructive. It’s okay to still be questioning, still figuring things out. It doesn’t make you less of a member of the queer-and-allied community. Those who are questioning deserve our support just as much as those who are queer.

Things to Consider…

October 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

by PHOEBE

  • On September 21, the Senate failed to pass a bill that included the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ They were four votes short, despite the Democratic majority.
  • On September 22, gay college student Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge to his death after his roommate Dhuram Ravi twice posted videos online of him making out with another man.
  • On September 9, Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old high school freshman hung himself in his family’s barn after intense bullying for his perceived sexual orientation from his classmates. In interviews, his principal, the person that’s supposed to have the best interest of all students at heart, said that Billy sometimes created “that atmosphere [of teasing] around him… Kind of like a little tornado because he went around doing things that made dust fly, I guess.” After Billy’s suicide, hateful and accusatory remarks were posted on his memorial page.
  • The cases of Tyler Clementi and Billy Lucas are not anomalies.
  • Andrew Shirvell, Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General, has decided to take a voluntary leave of absence after getting nationwide attention for creating a website devoted to the shaming and bashing of University of Michigan’s openly gay student assembly president, Chris Armstrong. Despite the fact that Shirvell has clearly expressed his bias against a significant group of people–not to mention an oppressed minority that is in need of defense–when a large part of his JOB DESCRIPTION is to uphold the rights that everyone is granted by the constitution, Attorney General Mike Cox has refused to discipline or dismiss him.
  • According to a ten-year study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 9 out of 10 LGBT students are harassed in school. 72.4% of students hear homophobic remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently at school. In the last month 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30% missed at least one day of school due to safety concerns.

Have I depressed you enough? The list goes on and on and on.

What, if anything, can we take from all this? America has a serious problem. A problem of heteronormative expectations about sexuality and gender expression and a problem of viciously attacking those who don’t fit into these norms. While this problem is damaging to everyone, it predominantly affects young people. From the White House to the playground the message is clear: You’re icky, you’re different, you’re wrong, you’re not like us. We wish you’d go away.

So what do we do? Do something! Do anything! Post on Dan Savage’s It Gets Better youtube channel. Attend an upcoming event. Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school. Support GLSEN, The Trevor Project, Matthew’s Place, Angels and Doves and Stomp Out Bullying! Participate in Ally Week.

Be active, be kind, and be hopeful. Hope is what we need more than anything. To use the eternally relevant and powerful words of Harvey Milk: You’ve gotta give ‘em hope.

Today in Transphobia

September 19, 2010 § 7 Comments

by ELENA

Trigger Warning for transphobia.

According to Investigation Discovery, being trans is just as bad as being a bank robber, serial murderer, Russian spy, or polygamist.

Until the media stops treating transgendered individuals as freaks/weirdos/comic relief/or as not really being their identified gender, many will continue to assume that being trans is a crime, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to sensationalize members of the transgender community. And the transgender population will continue to face harassment, discrimination, and horrendous acts of violence.

Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? should really be called Why the (Bleep) does John Waters Have Anything To Do With This Cluster(Bleep)?

Kudos to Fuck Yeah FTMS for posting Investigation Discovery’s Facebook page, and contact information. If you’re as upset as I am, please contact them. The only way that networks like ID will change is if they hear from viewers who will not continue to watch their programming, and will not buy products from programming advertisers.

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino gets paid $10K per episode of The Jersey Shore. Joelle ruby ryan blogged about the most recent episode at Transmeditation’s Blog.

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, known for an obsession with his own abdominal muscles and hooking up with women in order to openly degrade them and call them ugly “grenades,” is flirting with a blonde woman at the club.  We don’t actually see her face because it is pixelated out, evidently meaning she would not sign a release agreement to allow her face to be shown.  She is wearing a choker. Cast member Pauly D states: This person “got all the clues that leads me to believe she’s a man– something to hide the Adam’s apple, something on her hands The Situation got himself in a situation with a tranny.”   Other cast mates than all go on to say: “There is a saying in Miami: if you have to think about it, or hesitate to think: it is.  It’s usually a dude… it’s a tranny: stay away!”  The hate-language of “tranny” and calling gender-variant people “it” are used multiple times.

Mike Sorrentino is making a lot of money to behave like a complete asshole on a reality TV show. Some executive, somewhere at MTV seems to think this is a great idea.

MTV doesn’t seem to have a “Contact” page on their website, but you can leave comments on their Facebook and Twitter.

And, as Fuck Yeah FTMS points out, LOGO is owned by MTV.

Sex, Lies, and Christine O’Donnell

September 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

Christine O’Donnell, a conservative “Tea Party Candidate” endorsed by Sarah Palin, has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Delaware.

Besides getting the “Mama Grizzly” seal of approval from Ms. Palin, O’Donnell has been getting a lot of publicity about her views on sexuality. Jezebel reported on her appearance in a 90’s MTV special, in which she spoke negatively about masturbation.

Jezebel also linked to an article on The Raw Story, on how O’Donnell compared sex education, specifically talking to kindergarteners about inappropriate touch, with “suddenly talking to the stranger on the playground with candy” in an appearance with former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders on Fox News.

There are a lot of genuine reasons to not want O’Donnell elected to the Senate: Her lack of experience, many financial irregularities, and sex-negative views are enough to warrant a hope that she loses the general election. But Jezebel’s more recent article, which simply runs a quote from O’Donnell, under the headline “Christine O’Donnell May Be a 41 Year Old Virgin” goes too far.

I could care less about O’Donnell’s sexuality, or sexual practices. O’Donnell isn’t a terrifying figure because ghasp! She might not have sex! It’s because she seems hell-bent on forcing her very conservative views onto everyone else. As a senator, she would have the power to support abstinence-only legislation, which doesn’t work, and block legislation that guarantees rights to all members of the queer alphabet soup (LGBTQQIA), or increases funding towards AIDS research and prevention.

Or, as Jill over at Feministe puts it:

What we are talking about are Christine O’Donnell’s views on masturbation, which are relevant in a country where federal funds go towards sex education, churches, schools, health care organizations, etc etc, and where Christine O’Donnell is trying to get herself into a position where she will have some amount of power over those funds. Christine O’Donnell’s comments were not that she doesn’t masturbate, they were that masturbation is wrong and that we should teach young people that it is wrong. She has also said that fighting AIDS gets too much government money and that using condoms won’t work. And see, when she says that using condoms won’t work to fight the spread of AIDS and we (or I) say “That is a ridiculous comment!,” we are not talking about Christine O’Donnell’s personal use of condoms, of which we know nothing. We are talking about her very wrong viewpoint that condoms are useless and should not be promoted.

O’Donnell slut-shames other women when she says that masturbating, using condoms, and having premarital sex are wrong and immoral. However, when others use their high-profile platforms to invite a comment war on O’Donnell’s sexuality, we aren’t any better.

So, let’s not give O’Donnell any more ammunition than she already has, thanks to the Tea Party Express, and make sure she isn’t elected to Senate.

UPDATE: Jezebel isn’t letting go of this story, and republished an article from Talking Points Memo called “Christine O’Donnell’s Sexual Evolution“, which goes far more in depth about O’Donnell’s personal history and experiences, which lead her to be coming an antichoice, abstinence until marriage “crusader”. There is far more depth in this article than anything Jezebel has reported, but still an emphasis on focusing on her sexuality. After all, this article could have worked as “Christine O’Donnell’s Political Evolution”, or “Christine O’Donnell’s Religious Evolution”. But as a woman, all that matters is your sexuality. Obviously.

Jezebel: Still Not Progressive

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Nope. Unless your idea of busting the kyriarchy involves heteronormative, classist, ageist, woman and sexuality shaming, pro-rape bullshit.

Overall, the entire piece fails due to its insistence that the only “real virginity” is man’s penis into women’s vagina. It makes no reference at all that might not be true for people who are trans,  non-gender binary conforming, bi/pan/asexual, lesbian, gay, and/or queer identified. Plus, it effectively erases people who simply choose not to have PIV sex, or don’t want to count it as “losing their virginity” due to rape/assault/other trauma, or the belief that oral/anal/something else was their “first time.” And what about people who can’t or can’t comfortably have PIV sex due to sexual dysfunction or a similar condition?

None of these people exist in Jezebel-land.

You know who else is apparently a figment of my silly feminist imagination? Twenty something virgins. Instead of respecting the fact that someone couldn’t or didn’t want to do it before they hit 21, let’s talk down to them and insist they need a “a solid core of female friends to guide you through the first-time sex experience” or “Get out of town. Preferably Paris, France. Pick an attractive, mysterious European stranger who doesn’t speak a word of English and is totally inappropriate for your real life, but perfect for this occasion.” You know, I really have no problem with one-time sex with someone you don’t know, even if it’s your first sexual experience. Nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t the idea of picking someone who can’t understand the language you speak scream with consent issues and sound a little like rape? Or actually, sound exactly like rape because that’s what it is?

Besides, how many twenty-somethings (or anybody, really) can afford random European vacations? Not a whole lot, yet the piece  normalizes it and doesn’t offer solutions for the many people who can’t do it.

The entire piece just perpetuates the culture of  shaming women for not having their first sexual experience go a certain way, something that conservatives are regularly called out on. Jezebel would refuse to publish a piece telling women the best way to have first-time sex is after the wedding, but they are fine telling women they need to have a party or be drunk. While their isn’t a huge culture of shame forcing their advice, it’s still the same concept: telling women they don’t know how to handle their own sexuality. It’s time that all of us-conservative, progressive, or somewhere in between-trust women enough to know if, when, and how their first sexual experience will take place.

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