The New Yorker gets a 0 on the Swift-o-Meter

Racism is satire when “progressives” do it!

I am not a regular reader of The New Yorker, but I have never been a huge fan of their cartoons. Some of them have made me chuckle, some of them have made me roll my eyes, and many more have just provoked a, “Okay…” kind of blah reaction. But, I am sorry to say that they have joined the ranks of all those other jerks who create something bigoted, present it without any obvious criticism, and then dare to call it “satire”.

That cover is not satire.

I understand the reasons why people are calling it satire, but their explanations fall flat when you’ve seen the same arguments used to defend insulting articles/pictures/etc that only serve to reinforce the status quo.

Satire isn’t a synonym for “mockery”. It isn’t something that is easy to do right, and it certainly isn’t accomplished by simply rehashing elements that have been used by a group that’s in political opposition to the person doing the satire. It’s not enough to say it’s satire because “everyone” knows the object of mockery is ridiculous, especially when there are plenty of people who obviously don’t.

The thing that the satire is mocking needs to be blatantly and obviously ridiculous and wrong. And not just to people who already see the subject as ridiculous and wrong. Satire needs to expose the logical fallacies of the object of ridicule, not simply summarize them.

If the satire can reinforce a person’s conviction as easily, if not easier, than it can shake it, then it is not satire. It’s just mockery, and mockery whose target is ambiguous at that.

Via Feministe.

I'm not going to be judgmental, I'm just judging you.

Australia’s Federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, is one of my least favourite people. He’s been on an anti-abortion kick for the last few years, and the recent jewel in his attack is a government-funded pregnancy counselling hotline which allegedly aims to help women make informed choices.

This doesn’t sound like a bad idea, right? A big part of feminism is about making sure women have the ability to make informed choices, and the resources available so that ability can be utilised in the fullest manner. So why do I have an issue? Well, let’s talk about that. Continue reading

Childcare in Australia

So, the media here has been all over a recent report released by the Federal Treasury Department that supposedly counters years of claims that there is a childcare crisis in Australia, and claims that childcare is ‘accessible and affordable’. One of the key claims is that there’s oodles of childcare available to parents, “just not of their preferred type”.

Now, I’ll admit to not being an expert on childcare, particularly since I was never in childcare (I was lucky enough to have my grandmother move to Australia from my mother’s country of birth, China, when I was a toddler, so she looked after me when my mother went back to work), and I have no children, so I’ve never had the need to access childcare. Maybe I’m just being strange, but childcare always seemed like something one should be able to exercise a reasonable amount of discretion over, given, y’know, you’re trusting these people with the care of your children. Basically, the report claims that the perception of a childcare crisis is masking the fact that parents just aren’t getting the type of childcare they want, and there’s no mismatch between supply and demand. I mean really, it sounds like “People who want Coke are having trouble getting Pepsi, and people who want Pepsi are having trouble getting Coke, but there’s lots of cola, so there’s no supply/demand problem.” except with something that I’d like to think is rather more important than cola preference. Now, even with my rudimentary understanding of supply/demand, which mostly comes from my partner, who’s a marketing academic, I’m not seeing how that’s NOT a supply/demand problem. Really, as far as government reports are concerned, I’d see it as a reason to encourage further research into what kinds of childcare are lacking and wanted with reference to other specific variables, like location that’s more specific than ‘urban/inner-regional/outer-regional’. Unsurprisingly, instead we’ve got a bunch of handwaving and data-massaging in order to pretend there’s not a problem.

As for affordability, the report goes from “affordability has remained fairly constant for middle and high income families, and decreased slightly for low-income families” in the bulk of the report, to a blanket statement about child care being generally affordable. Those more knowledgeable in this area are free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d think that affordability of child care was a particularly crucial factor for low-income families, given affordable and accessible childcare is likely to be fairly important if one is attempting to increase one’s income above poverty levels. I imagine it’s rather difficult to get a second (or third, or fourth) job, or get more training if you can’t afford to have your kids looked after whilst you do that. So, y’know, if anything, I think the decreasing affordability for low-income families outweighs the stability for middle and high income families. Now, the report does indicate that the data doesn’t account for a recent expansion of a government-provided childcare assistance payment for low-income parents, but I’m not really a fan of the assumption without exploration that this expansion would sufficiently address the problem. If later research indicates the further government assistance is addressing the problem, that’s great, but the assumption is just lazy undeserved pats-on-the-back.

Now, the television reports have taken great joy in summarising the report as claiming parents are being picky. Whilst I think the report is more subtle than that, the ‘picky’ claim will probably pick up a lot of momentum, particularly from conservatives. But honestly, particularly given the amount of criticism that’s often thrown at women if their children are in childcare at all (unsurprisingly, men get much less of this criticism), I’m not really seeing why being picky about where and how your children are looked after if you need to work/study is such a horribly bad thing.

New Blog: First Woman

Ragnell has created a new group blog: First Woman.

In her own words:

Saturday morning, Hillary Rodham Clinton officially announced her candidacy for President.


So, I’m finally starting a political blog, so I can follow the media coverage and the public reaction to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and examine the sexist attitudes that surface during the Democratic primaries (and beyond, should she get the nomination). I’ll also probably blog about how people regard other women in American Politics.

If no sexist attitudes surface, this should be the last post of the blog.

More likely, though, there will be way too much sexism for one person or one blog to analyze.

If you want to help out with the blog, she’s requested that you get in touch with her. More details here.

Catholic League Plays the Victim Blaming Card

The Catholic League in response to former congressman Mark Foley remarking that he was abused by a clergyman:

“As for the alleged abuse, it’s time to ask some tough questions. First, there is a huge difference between being groped and being raped, so which was it Mr. Foley? Second, why didn’t you just smack the clergyman in the face? After all, most 15-year-old teenage boys wouldn’t allow themselves to be molested. So why did you?”

Getting victim blamed for abuse and molestation ain’t just for the girls, apparently. Not exactly the kind of “gender parity” I’d like to see, though.

Via Darth Sidhe.

In which I am (yet again) shamed by the behaviour of liberal bloggers

I’ve been busy lately, so I haven’t posted on this. Mostly because I didn’t have the time to do it justice. Not that I’m going to do it justice here, ’cause I’m just so pissed off about the whole thing. But I’ll include a link lineup at the bottom so you can read people who say it better than me.

I’m sure most people in the feminist blogsphere have heard about the Althouse incident (the roundup done on this blog can be found here). Well, what some of you may not know is that the lack of people of colour (POC) in the lineup also brought some criticism. How, pray tell, does the liberal blogsphere respond? By supporting the POC who, having seen this kind of thing countless times, have raised this issue? Of course not.

One blog, Firedoglake, put up a post that personally attacked one blogger, Liza, for daring to question her “betters” (yes they did go there).

As far as I can tell, the only basis for their “jealousy defense” (proof that we never truly leave elementary school behind, I suppose, that presumably respected bloggers could think that calling Liza jealous was appropriate for a blog post) is this quote:

I am just shocked at the glee with which Peter Daou has shown his disrespect for Pam Spaulding, Steve Gilliard, Louis Pagan, Chris Rabb, Earl Dunovant and me when he decided to not invite neither of us, or for that matter, any other black or latino bloggers.

Sure, one reading of that is that she’s miffed that she — and other POC weren’t invited — but that misses the point. The point, of course, being that there weren’t any POC on the panel because the effort to reach out to them was non-existent (and, no, sorry, but no cookie is given for “effort” because the person set up to be the “token minority” declined the invite). And, no, it’s not because there aren’t excellent political bloggers who aren’t white, either. Yet again, the privileged section of the blogsphere was given a chance to examine their privilege and go, “Huh. That is unfortunate. Next time we gotta do better,” and, yet again, they passed it up and instead went with the familiar comfort of racism.

According to Kai at Zuky the “good intentions” monster reared its ugly head (reminding me that I need to add that to the list of things I need to post about). I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t buy the “good intentions” line anymore because it’s so often used to silence dissent from the minority group or person in question. Hey, dissenters, if your intentions are so good, put your money where your mouth is and actually listen to what the POC bloggers are saying! Seriously, how hard it is it to translate good intentions into good actions? And I’ll give you a tip: personally attacking a POC blogger for speaking out isn’t the way to prove to the world the purity of your intentions. Neither is de-linking them, as seems to have happened over at Kos’ blog.

Not to mention that Liza also gets the “women are just attention whores” attack in the comments section:

Then Jane Hamsher (another Firedoglake blogger) said in comments: “[Liza’s] exploitation of a very real problem for personal gain is quite shameless.”

Apparently these “very real problems” only exist in theory, because every time an actual person brings up actual incidents like these they are just “exploiting” the issue for “personal gain.” Right. Not to mention that this is a pretty common theme in minority discussions — especially when women are involved; I hear this all the time from people trying to discredit women who bring up sexual harassment suits and I’ve seen it around sometimes when people are talking about rape.

If people want to know why racism won’t die, it’s because of crap like this. Seriously. Too many white people seem to live in some fantasy where “good intentions” are more important than the results of actions, and where it’s okay to use ad homs on POC who dissent.

Dear liberal blogsphere: Check your fucking privilege already. This is just embarassing.


(This is only a small representation of what is out there — most of the links have links to other great posts on this matter, and I urge people to read them, too.)

Yet Another Take on the Althouse Incident

[I’ve got a new blog on Vox, with these posts and a few others. Commenting, unfortunately, requires registration to the service, but I’ve got a few invite codes for it. Come visit.]

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle this weekend over Ann Althouse‘s treatment of Feministing‘s Jessica Valenti.

(I’m not going to call it “Boobiegate.” It’s been over thirty years since Watergate; can we stop framing everything in terms of the Baby Boomers and let that go the way of Teapot Dome?)

What It Was About

The short version: Ann Althouse responded to this photo of Bill Clinton with several bloggers by making an vague allusion to the Lewinsky scandal.

Let’s just array these bloggers… randomly.

(As other folks have pointed out, the bloggers were arrayed not “randomly” but in terms of height.)

The first commenter, Goesh, picked up on it:

Who is the Intern directly in front of him with the black hair?

The woman in question, Jessica Valenti of Feministing, takes offense at being reduced to an element of a joke:

The, um, “intern” is me. It’s so nice to see women being judged by more than their looks. Oh, wait…

And it all snowballs from there as Ms. Althouse gets defensive:

Well, Jessica, you do appear to be “posing.” Maybe it’s just an accident.

Jessica: I’m not judging you by your looks. (Don’t flatter yourself.) I’m judging you by your apparent behavior. It’s not about the smiling, but the three-quarter pose and related posturing, the sort of thing people razz Katherine Harris about. I really don’t know why people who care about feminism don’t have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist. So don’t assume you’re the one representing feminist values here. Whatever you call your blog….

She goes on to create a whole new post, entitled “Let’s take a closer look at those breasts“, in which she writes:

Sooooo… apparently, Jessica writes one of those blogs that are all about using breasts for extra attention. Then, when she goes to meet Clinton, she wears a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts and stands right in front of him and positions herself to make her breasts as obvious as possible?

Maybe it’s just overexposure to comics, but I don’t really see that as anything more than standing up straight, turning to make sure she’s not blocking out Mr. Clinton, and smiling. Other people, especially those commenters who identify themselves as Ms. Valenti’s age or younger, seem to see it the same way.

After that post draws 500 comments’ worth of ire, defensiveness and trolling, she washes her hands of the whole deal with one more post:

I’m surpassingly sick of this comments thread from yesterday, and I’m not even going to read all the commentary on other blogs. The immense tiresomeness is actually undermining my will to blog this morning.

I don’t mind an intense, verbal fight about ideas, but this wasn’t that. This was, every time you expressed a substantive idea, the answer was, essentially, “Stop looking at my breasts.” (I’m picturing an SNL sketch based on that concept, and like the usual SNL sketch, it goes on way too long.)

Why Althouse Was Wrong

There’s not really much to be said on this point that other people haven’t already said better. Ms. Valenti writes:

You know, I was psyched to be invited to this lunch and was feeling pretty honored. But then things like this remind me that no matter what I do or accomplish, because I’m a young woman all I’m good for is fodder for tacky intern jokes and comments that I don’t “represent feminist values” because of the way I posed in a picture.

Here’s another quick rule of thumb: if you’re complaining about people supporting a sexual harasser, it’s best not to do it in a way that encourages future sexual harassment.

Althouse’s “Real Point”

Ms. Althouse is claiming that her critics miss the point, which seems to be something along the lines of (a) real feminists don’t accept invitations to meet with Bill Clinton; and (b) people should respect the office of the Presidency by dressing in formal business attire when meeting with a former President.

I’m not sure these two positions are completely reconcilable – “pleading in the alternative”
doesn’t work so well outside of a legal context – but the idea that she gets to be the one
who decides what the “real” issues are is the same thing that constantly gets done to feminism, as feminists are asked to put their issues aside for the important shit. That’s what Ms. Valenti was being asked to do – not complain about being used as part of a blowjob joke (I’m not exaggerating here; Ms. Althouse makes references to berets and blue dresses in her comments) because Ms. Althouse was making a point about Bill Clinton.

Generation Gaps

There’s another generation gap that is going on in these arguments, and that’s in the perception of Clinton. Here’s a fact that makes me feel old: Anyone younger than 28 (including Ms. Valenti) was never able to vote for Clinton, because they were too young during the 1996 election. Ms. Althouse is of a generation that was politically active during the Clinton administration, and for whom the impeachment issue was primary. For many of the younger commenters, that issue is of historical interest, but doesn’t leave much of a direct “legacy.” As one commenter, Parry_Lost, notes:

Allright, I’m sorry I lack in knowledge of the scandalous affairs of foreign presidents (I’m not an American) that happened while I was in middle school. Yes, I know many people do have such knowledge. Allright. My feminist and historical knowledge is lacking. I accept these flaws and will continue to try and work on them.

But why, why, why is it wrong to criticize Althouse for unfairly insulting another blogger?
What did her comments that Jessica was showing off her breasts to someone and that the Feministing blog is trying to get attention with breasts even have to do with the Clinton scandal of which I am admittedly ignorant?

This, of course, gets seized on by older commenters, who basically treat Parry_Lost and other younger posters as if they were still in middle school.

Althouse and Privilege

Ms. Althouse seems to run her blog in a much more “top-down” way than I’m used to – it’s more like a syndicated news column or radio call-in show, in contrast to the more “community” focused blogs I tend to read. At least in the posts I saw, there’s a divide between Althouse herself and other commenters. Often, she adopts her law-professor role and actually grades people’s comments (as she did with me when I commented there), which strikes me as an attempt to take the privilege she enjoys as a professor and apply it to contexts where it’s unwarranted.

Ms. Althouse gets a lot of mileage (increased readership, newspaper articles, etc.) out of her academic credentials; Ms. Valenti’s fame in these circles is mostly from her blogging.

Ms. Althouse’s attacks on Ms. Valenti’s appearance and youth seem to me to be founded in part on the idea that Ms. Valenti’s privilege is unwarranted, and must be to some extent based on being a conventionally attractive young woman, since she hasn’t paid her dues yet.

The trouble with this, obviously, is that it basically relegates young women to be nothing more than “eye candy.”

Basically, it’s a hazing mentality. Since Ms. Althouse (presumably) didn’t have these sorts of opportunities in her twenties (at the very least, she wouldn’t have been able to publish a blog), but does now, people in their twenties need to wait until she’s had her turn at the helm of public discourse before they demand their say.

A Confession

Somewhere out there is a picture of me with Christopher Cox, taken back in 1993. As a high school junior, I took a trip to DC and part of that trip invovled meeting with the members of Congress who represented us.

Mr. Cox addressed the Generation X concern (not really my generation, but we were high school students and didn’t have much of a political voice yet) that we would likely be economically worse off than our parents. And do you know what he blamed for that possiblity? Women in the workplace. I can only wonder what he would have said if there
were a female student there as well. The argument was something like this: back in the Good Old Days, a man got paid enough to provide for a family because women didn’t work; now the expectation is that both men and women would work, so a single income doesn’t have to go as far. (Privilege? What’s that?) Totally economically unsound, of course. Which explains why he’s now running the SEC, I suppose.

Anyway, what would Ms. Althouse say I should have done – respect the office of U.S. Representative, or stay away? Should I have walked out? I was 16, and had the understanding that this meeting was more about being presented with the program recognition, Argued back? I thought that you weren’t supposed to “make a scene” or ask hardball questions at those sorts of events. Besides, at that age I didn’t have a ready response; I knew there was a flaw in the argument, but didn’t know exactly what. But I guess it doesn’t matter, because I wore a blazer and slacks and don’t have breasts.


Althouse: Bill Clinton, lunching with the bloggers.
Althouse: Let’s take a closer look at those breasts.
Althouse: Comments, comments, comments.
Jessica @ Feministing: Feminists don’t pose
Jessica @ Feministing: The “dirty pillow” line of attack
Jill @ Feministe: Wherein Ann Althouse Shoots Any Credibility She Had Left
zuzu @ Feministe: More about that Clinton blogger lunch
zuzu @ Feministe: Know Your Place
Lindsey Beyerstein @ Majikthise: Let’s take a closer look at those nuts
Amanda Marcotte @ Pandagon: But there’s titties in that picture!
OTF Wank: Feminist wank.

Dividing to include, including to divide?

So, as y’all should know by now, I currently live in Japan, but I consider my home area to be the Washington and British Columbia areas. My mom lives there and she recently e-mailed me a news article about the formation of GLBT Month in Jefferson County. The reason she did this was because of one letter to the editor that angered her very much.

In a nutshell, Connie Rosenquist, the letter writer, is angry over Jefferson County’s decision to have a GLBT Month. My mother said that most of the responses to the original article were positive, but this negative one pushed her buttons for a reason she couldn’t name. I read it and knew immediately what it was; it was the same attitude that opponents of this proclamation in the original article expressed. An attitude that oppression activists are intimately familiar with.

I’m talking about privilege.

In this case, the ability to believe that one’s privileged state is the “default” and therefore see any attempt at equality as the non-privileged groups to get “special” rights, or to see them as trying to shut you out of “your” community. I’ve taken this on from the perspective of helping potential allies, but now I want to examine exactly why these attitudes are actually harmful to the expressed goals of equality, neutrality, and inclusion.

I. The Myth of Cultural Neutrality

“While I do agree we don’t want discrimination, I don’t believe it exists in the county,” he said, pausing as a handful of people present who opposed the proclamation applauded.

“I don’t believe government should be taking a position on any lifestyle,” Rodgers said.

[From Gay pride proclamation stirs controversy by By Kasia Pierzga]

The position that conservatives like Rodgers and Rosenquist are coming from is founded on the notion that society, as it is right now, is neutral. For those of us who fight oppression, this assumption is obviously fallacious — if one could major in fighting oppression, the idea that we live in a neutral society would be debunked in Privilege 101. But, for the majority of people, this idea remains unquestioned until they find that rights that matter to them come into question. And even then, the connection might not be made unless they happen upon an article, discussion, or class and the idea is not only brought up but done so in a way that resonates with them.

In other words, I’m surprised that any of us actually interact with notions of privilege and what it means in our respective societies given what we have stacked against us. I mean, who wants to think about how our society is crappy and that all of us, in our own special ways, contribute to the crappiness? I sure don’t! But I know if I don’t, not only will I suffer, but everyone else will, too. And, well, what’s worse than thinking about a crappy society is realizing that I’m willfully participating in hurting other people.

Not A Position On A LifestyleBringing this back to privilege and the myth of a neutral culture. One of the main ideas behind the concept of privilege is that our privileged state is seen as a “default” or “neutral” state in society. In regards to feminism, the main principle is that of “male normativity” — or seeing men, and the masculine sphere, as the default human state. For racial activism, the main state is “assumption: white” — meaning that white people are seen as the default human state, and white culture is seen as the default culture. In this case, the privileged state being battled is that of heteronormativity.

When Rodgers says that he doesn’t believe that the government should be taking a position on any lifestyle, he is clearly not counting heterosexuality as a “lifestyle.” For him, and those who hold the same beliefs, heterosexuality isn’t a lifestyle, it is simply a given in life. They are heterosexual, therefore everyone must be. The people who live outside of a traditional heterosexual lifestyle can’t be doing it it because it’s their default human state, but because they choose to live a different way.

But, I mean, the government is not staying out of people’s relationships. From the foundation of the United States of America, to the laws and regulations of America’s parent countries, and even looking at the way that the institution of marriage has developed and been practiced in nations throughout history, the government has always had a stake in this area. The whole point of marriage is so that the state can confer all sorts of applicable rights to the married persons.

Not only that, but the government is clearly not even neutral on the subject of queer relationships, but there is a strong minority force, lead by Bush, is all too involved in taking a position on the “lifestyle”. To be fair, Rodgers himself may be against this, too, but the point is that attacks like the repeated attempts to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage is a pretty clear case against the idea that our culture is neutral ground when it comes to heterosexual rights versus queer rights. Unless I missed the part where the senate voted on whether or not we should ban different-sex marriages.

II. Leveling the Playing Field

In her letter, Rosenquist calls the proclamation “unnecessarily offending and dividing.” Although she does not outright state it, I think it’s safe to infer from what she does say that one reason she believes this is because having a GLBT Month seems to confer “special” rights to a group of people. But that works from the assumption that heterosexuality isn’t already privileged over non-heterosexuality. The purpose of the proclamation is not to one up heterosexuality, but rather to level the playing field.

What do I mean by that? Isn’t the playing field already level? Well, not exactly. In fact, there are several different fronts on which heteronormativity gives heterosexuality a one up on other forms of sexual expression. To name a few:

Socalized Heterosexuality:
From the moment we are born until the moment we die, we are continually socialized. Girls become women while being constantly asked about boyfriends, husbands, and male crushes. Boys become men men while being constantly asked about girlfriends, wives, and female crushes. When we are taught in schools, it’s with teaching materials that reinforce “man + woman = couple.”

This doesn’t stop at grade school, but continues even into adult education. For example, in my Japanese class we watch videos that deal with a love triangle where two men like a woman they work with. The pictures our book uses sometimes depicts men and women out on dates. And, of course, in our class discussions everyone assumes everyone else is heterosexual — the women have to make example sentences about boyfriends, the men have to make example sentences about girlfriends.

HeteronormativityHeterosexual Messages in Popular Culture:
Like the picture on the left, the assumption that all people are heterosexual is an unquestioned part of much of our popular culture. When you hear “romantic comedy” you think of a female lead who is lead through a serious of hilarious mishaps until she finds true love with her male counterpart. Action movies that have the obligatory love/lust sidestory will almost always have it set up as being the male lead getting it on with a female support character (or female lead, if the movie has that). Comics are… well, the insane amount of press that the new Batwoman is getting because she’s a lesbian (here, here, and here, to name a few) should be self evident.

And I’d say that this medium is where the queer community has made it’s largest strides in terms of combatting heteronormativity. Shows like Will and Grace, Queer as Folk, and The L Word — whether you like them or hate them — have been slowly creeping into popular culture. Sometimes even mainstream shows, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will have queer characters. Better yet, there is some tentative evidence to suggest that this promotes tolerance, yay!

But, while we have come a long way, it’s clear (to me, at least) that we still have a long way to go. Which brings me to my last example of heteronormativity in our daily lives.

Legislated Heteronormativity:
When I was talking about heteronormativity in Section 1, this is where I was focusing my efforts. Rodgers may have a point when he said that the government doesn’t have any business legislating sexuality, but making that case in terms of GLBT Month ignores the fact that the government has been in the business of legislating sexuality since before it was the American government.

Marriage laws, tax laws, inheritance laws, and up until recently sodomy laws — these are just a few ways in which the government has legislated our sexuality. And, guess what? For the most part they privilege heterosexual couples by lawfully legitimizing their union (a must have if your partner gets sick or dies) and even giving them monetary incentive in terms of tax breaks and, not as directly, cheaper insurance due to joint plans offered to people who have a legal marriage.

III. It’s Either Us, or Them

I’m going to go one step farther now and posit that the “neutrality” argument is a less overt way of claiming that any attempt to include the queer community in the American community is tantamount to pushing homosexuality on them. If the premise of a neutral culture were correct, then this argument would make a certain amount of sense because one set of values would get more attention than another. Even then, however, the either/or idea — that including one group means excluding the other — is a fallacious argument.

In her letter, Rosenquist employs a certain amount of the “can’t we all just get along?” rhetoric. When she calls the proclamation “unnecessarily offending and dividing,” it is apparently in the spirit of cooperation. That all of us — whether we be heterosexual or queer, conservative or progressive — can live together in a community. That’s a principle we can all get behind, right? Right?

But what kind of a community does she want us all to live in? I can’t answer that to the fullest extent, but I can extrapolate based on her letter. First of all, she believes that a community should make efforts to not offend its members or unnecessarily divide them. So far so good. But, when we get into what that seems to mean to her, things start getting hairy.

See, she feels that since the group is “self-defined by sexual practices,” GLBT Month will therefore not focus enough on the contributions of the nominees. The first problem with that argument is immediately apparent to anyone who knows what the “T” in “GLBT” stands for. That would be transgender. Until now, they have been largely excluded from the conversation — both by the Rosenquist and myself — because… well, because of a lot of reasons.

God Hates FagsOn Rosenquist’s end, I would wager that it’s because she is largely unaware of “trans issues” (I use the term very loosely), as most Americans are. For me, well, because I’m addressing the attitudes of the opponents. And also this post is long enough focusing mostly on issues of sexual orientation without getting into the diverse way that the “T” in “GBLT” interacts with the queer community. But, it’s important here because it is the most obvious way in which the queer community can be seen to be much, much more than a declaration of what genders we are attracted to.

Which brings me to my second problem with her oversimplification. It erases the fact that the reason we all have banded together is because we have been ignored, attacked, killed, deprived of our rights…. well, let’s get simple here, oppressed throughout history. Our sexual preferences may be one common thread between us, but it is not what I would call the “self-defining” feature of the queer rights movement. “The right not to be discriminated against, harassed, killed, or otherwise abused and excluded because of our sexual orientation, gender expression, sexual practices, etc.” would probably be closer to a self-defining feature, really.

And speaking of sexual practices, here’s another point I’d like to address. In her letter, she says:

Jefferson County has multitudes of ways to honor deserving people for actual contributions – and which spare us details of their sexual practices.

Reading this again, I am struck by the strong implication that queer-identified people haven’t made “actual contributions.” But in the interest of time and space, I’ll gloss over that and focus on one of the most telling parts of her piece. The part where she says that Jefferson County needs to honor people in ways that “spare us the details of their sexual practices.” Which, if we go back to her inclusive community idea, pretty strongly argues for the fact that the place queer people have in her community is, at best, that of eternal silence. Because anything else — even if it’s just talking about a same-sex partner in the same way that people talk about their different-sex partners — amounts to TMI.

And, lastly, let’s examine the part where she says:

A truly “welcoming” community also welcomes the more conservative.

Don’t forget that all of this is in response to the government trying to be inclusive of the queer movement by giving us one month out of the year in which we are honored for our struggles and other contributions that our members have made for the community. But, apparently doing this means that Rosenquist and conservatives like her are unwelcome.

“Unwelcome, how,” you ask? Do the queers go out and beat conservatives for daring to flaunt their heterosexuality? Do we try to pass laws that criminalize their unnatural different-sex-only attractions? Do we tell them that they’re welcome in our community only if they “spare us the details of their sexual practices”?

No, no. We make them feel unwelcome because we are, by our very existence, “unnecessarily offending and dividing.” We offend them because we challenge their heretofore unchallenged idea of heteronormativity. We are divisive because we’re different. But what they don’t get — perhaps don’t want to get — is that we can’t stop being who we are.

And if that makes them feel unwelcome… well, I don’t know what to else to say.