Archive for category Bigotry
It very often seems that whenever conservative Republicans talk about women and anything to do with sexuality, they manage to be oafish and offensive. Mike Huckabee gives us our latest entrant into the hall of shame.
In an effort to defend Huckabee, the folks at the American Family Association added context, because the missing context was the problem, right?
Huckabee’s statement didn’t start off that bad:
“Women I know are smart, educated, intelligent, capable of doing anything that anyone else can do. Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That’s not a war on them; it’s a war for them.”
So far so good, right? But then his next sentence was:
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.”
There is no coherent connection between the two ideas – how do you move from “women are capable” to “they can’t control their libidos”?
Now, as Paul Waldman pointed out:
Huckabee’s position is that saying “Democrats are treating women like dirty sluts by saying they should have access to birth control!” is very, very different from just saying women are dirty sluts. He feels he’s been falsely accused of saying the latter, when he was really just saying the former. I’m sure that he thinks that if women just understood the full context of his statement, they’d realize he respects and honors them. What he doesn’t get is that women actually want and need contraception, and 99 percent of women who have had sex have used some form of contraception at some point in their lives. So when he tells them that contraception is for sluts, what they hear isn’t “Because I care for you, I don’t want you to become a slut,” what they hear is, “You’re a slut.”
Waldman’s insight only takes us so far, though. Huckabee’s statement sets up two opposite positions – birth control and self control. In his statement, Huckabee assumes the need for birth control is caused by lack of self control. He is saying that only sluts who can’t conrol themselves need birth control. And since 99% of American woman use birth control, he’s saying almost every American woman is a slut.
There’s not a positive spin on that statement.
Are conservative Christians harmed by compliance with nondiscrimination laws? It’s a more complex question than it appears at first blush.
I’m glad I don’t have to adjudicate any of these cases. Like people who want to ban books, conservative Christians who raise objections to non-discrimination laws as they apply to glbt persons are acting from a place of good intent, even if I disagree with their conclusions. Book banners want to protect children from ideas they believe children aren’t ready to deal with; conservative Christians who object to complying with nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious freedom perceive themselves as the aggrieved party being asked to violate their conscience.
US law has long recognized the right of individuals to request exemptions from certain laws and practices based on questions of conscience and religious faith. As I understand it, Quakers are not exempt military service, they are however exempt from participating as combatants. A number of years ago, I helped a friend draft a statment requesting status as a conscientious objector and be granted exemption from combat duty (he was a veteran and member of the reserves at the time). His statement was lengthy, thoughtful and carefully written; he was granted conscientious objector status and ultimately was not recalled to active duty.
US law has, also, long recognzied the right of individuals to be free from discrimination in the public square, which includes small businesses which are public accommodations. Businesses are public accommodations, which means they are subject to generally applicable laws and those signs that many small businesses post that read “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” should have a huge asterisk that qualifies that statement. You can’t legally refuse to serve someone because of their race, gender, religion, national origin and so on. Increasingly, that list includes real or perceived sexual orientation. To put it in simple terms, business owners have to make business decisions for business reasons not from animus toward a group of persons.
As more US cities, counties and states adopt nondiscrimination laws covering sexual and gender minorities, and as more states legalize same-sex marriage, I believe there are going to be more cases like that of Elane Photography and Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which small business owners seek exemption from nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious objections.
What happened in these cases is instructive. Read the rest of this entry »
The case of the Masterpiece Bakery in Colorado is one of a number of cases in which small business owners refuse to do business with gay couples on the basis of the owner’s religious objections to gay people doing things like getting married and forming long term commitments to one another.
Friday’s order from administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer says Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver will face fines if it continues to turn away gay couples who want to buy cakes for their wedding celebrations.
It started out simply enough:
In July of 2012, the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple who were planning to celebrate with friends and family the marriage they had received in Massachusetts. The couple, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, filed a complaint, and the Colorado Attorney General proceeded to do the same, and Friday, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Spencer ruled against Jack Phillips, the owner of the bakery.
The ACLU’s argument is very straightforward:
“While we all agree that religious freedom is important, no one’s religious beliefs make it acceptable to break the law by discriminating against prospective customers,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “No one is asking Masterpiece’s owner to change his beliefs, but treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination plain and simple.”
In these cases, the courts, businesses and individuals are struggling to distinguish between religious and commercial activity.
The American Prospect has a lengthy and somewhat scary article about homeschooling. Much of it is quotable and it’s a fascinating look inside America’s Christian subculture.
As of October, Homeschoolers Anonymous had published nearly 200 personal accounts and attracted more than 600,000 page views. For those outside the homeschooling movement, and for many inside it, the stories are revelatory and often shocking. The milder ones detail the haphazard education received from parents who, with little state oversight, prioritize obedience and religious training over learning. Some focus on women living under strict patriarchal regimes. Others chronicle appalling abuse that lasted for years.
It’s well worth a read.
At Americablog, Becca Morn documents the ways in which the American religious right is aiding and abetting the spread of anti-gay attitudes around the world. The strategy is one with which American activists are familiar – create and publish a scientifically questionable study, but market it as scientifically valid (or just distort legitimate research), spread it far and wide and sit back and wait. Read the rest of this entry »
With Ender’s Game coming to a movie theatre near you, there’s been controversy about author Orson Scott Card’s homophobia in the past. Card issued a pathetic plea for “tolerance” of his views.
Harvey Fierstein’s response may be the last word:
I think that you can have any opinion you want, but at least be willing to take the consequences of your opinion. It’s like, “Well, I hope that people will be more understanding,” or what did he say? “More tolerant of my views.” The quotes that got me about him weren’t against gay marriage — he wanted homosexuality criminalized in the United States. That’s what he called for. You want me to be tolerant of you wanting to criminalize homosexuality? Fuck you on your grave, you piece of shit.
A professor in Tennesee gave her class an optional, extra credit assignment:
Students claim they were required to wear a rainbow ribbon and make public statements in support of gay rights. They were then assigned to write a paper about the reactions they got from other people.[snip]
But Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project, a friend of the professor, said the lawyer’s claims are untrue. He said the assignment was voluntary and is commonly used in psychology classes.
It’s designed to help students gain empathy for gays and lesbians, according to a teaching guide for the assignment, called “Promoting Increased Understanding of Sexual Diversity through Experience Learning.” That guide says that the assignment should be voluntary.
How do we know the assignment was voluntary? A student who took the class a few years ago said so:
But wearing the ribbon was a voluntary, extra-credit assignment, Vernon said. He did not participate and suffered no consequences.
“It did not affect my grade,” he said. “It did make for an uncomfortable situation.”
Of course this relatively ordinary and optional assignment has got a bunch of conservative Christian panties in a twist. Conservative Christians are convinced the professor’s assignment is an attack on their faith and they’re claiming to be victims of religious discrimination.
I am so tired of these crybaby Christians who think not getting their way in absolutely everything is the same as being discriminated against.
I was an enthusiastic Cub Scout but at best a indifferent Boy Scout. I lost interest in scouting after a campout that was a well-intentioned mismanaged fiasco from beginning to end.
BSA have been living in a difficult place for years. They clearly sees themselves as a mainstream organization, modernizing and responding to contemporary society while transmitting time honored values and experiences. They strive to achieve racial and ethnic diversity. The organization updates and adds to its list of possible merit badges to represent changing societal awareness and standards, as for example badges in environmental science, disabilities awareness and game design. At the same time, many of the most fervent supporters of scouting are religious conservatives who perceive the organization as a bulwark of traditional values defending against a rising tide of valueless modernity. The organization’s struggle exemplifies the struggle in American culture. Read the rest of this entry »
A middle school in Red Hook, NY, conducted an anti-bullying workshop, working on questions of gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. The workshop was co-led by students from Bard College who are peer counselors at Bard.
So far, so non controversial.
What happened is that a student went home and complained to her mother – the story is now that the school forced girls to engage in lesbian kissing. A massive controversial discussion ensues on Facebook. Right wing media picks up the story that the school forced female students to kiss one another, that male students were taught how to identify which girls were sluts and were told to carry condoms at all times. Hysteria – not hysteria as in laughter but more in the nature of a moral panic – ensues.
Of course, none of those things actually happened and most parents are happy with the outcomes as well as the actual workshop. A few conservative parents are upset and the story with all its wrong details is being distributed around the right wing echo chamber.
The right wing picked up the mother’s complaint and ran with it – it appeared on Fox News. The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage has picked it up and used it in fundraising appeals. The false stories have made the rounds on the right (including a sensationalized account on WorldNetDaily). Expect to hear/read comments from conservatives about “that school in New York that forced girls to engage in “lesbian kisses” on comment boards and in discussion. What’s going on here is the right wing noise machine in full bore, blowing an entirely non-controversial incident out of proportion, creating a scandal where there is no scandal, feeding it into the right wing culture war community where it will become accepted as fact, and repeated ad nauseum.
The story in right wing media is not credible. Think about the details – does anyone seriuosly believe that an anti-bullying workshop would involve middle schools girls kissing each other? That an anti-bullying workshop would teach boys how to determine which of their classmates are sluts? It doesn’t pass the straight face test. Conservatives seem to have accepted accounts of the workshop without question at face value.
The dynamic at work here is deeper than simple gullibility or extremely credulity. Conservatives accepted the story on face value because it confirmed their existing biases about the general gone to hellness of the world. To put it another way, it’s not that the people believing this story are unusually gullible or credulous, it’s that they embrace a view of the world that tells them that school teachers and diversity programs and anti-bullying training are forms of indoctrination; these conservative parents expect to be outraged by what they hear about public schools, so they are primed to see scandal and depravity where none exists. The outraged conservatives hearing and sharing the story, expect public schools to try to indoctrinate their children in homosexuality, they’ve been told for years now that anti-bullying and diversity initiatives in public schools are nothing more than codewords for indoctrination. It’s a tiny step from believing that to believing students are being forced to kiss each other. Even if it didn’t happen in this case, conservatives will tell themselves it’s surely happening someplace else because that’s the sort of depraved thing that liberals will do if they think they can get away with it. To take one example, look at this comment from the WingNutDaily article:
If the liberals have it their way the law will destroy the meaning of family and the authority of parents completely. Remember what certain people were promoting on MSNBC? Your kids are not going to be your kids anymore so the government can brainwash them all they want and there won’t be a thing that you or anyone can do about it. Yeah, this is the culture that the lunatic liberals are creating. In certain European countries the kids are basically property of the state and not children of the parents. The kids in those countries are indoctrinated into anything and everything so long as it has nothing to do with God. This is powerful evidence of the type of utopian society and world that the lunatic liberals in the world are dreaming up and working towards making come true. The truth of the matter is that their dreams will, in fact, become nightmares. Their efforts will lead to catastrophe. No person should put up with the liberal lunatic agenda. It’s time for the anger of good citizens to be on full display and put the lunatic liberals in their place.
For this person it’s all part of a grand conspiracy. The breathless recounting of the event on right wing blogs and websites comes complete with denunciations of the evils of liberalism and public schools and gay people and fervid theorizing about the nefarious machinations of homosekshuls intent on destroying the family. The CBN (that is Christian Broadcasting Network) report ends with the warning that “school officials are planning more of these workshops!” The report – word for word – crops up on dozens of websites, propagated throughout a network of right wing blogs, bloggers, opinionators and semi-real news websites, to be forwarded, linked and discussed on other sites.
The story of the lesbian kisses is admittedly a minor one, but it’s a valuable case study in how the right wing works to spread misinformation throughout its network of activists, voters, bloggers and communities. Even if Fox were to retract the story today, it has spread far and wide, believed by who knows how many people. Like other right wing atrocity narratives, it will be reported again and again and no matter how many times its refuted, it will keep coming back. It will become the justification for right wing groups attempting to hold their own workshops at which people witness for Jesus and talk about becoming “ex-gay” and spread misinformation about gay people. When pushed on it, they’ll defend themselves with the story about the forced lesbian kisses in middle school.
Over the weekend, the D-News linked to yet another article opposed to gay marriage (this one published in Provo Daily Herald). Written by Jenet Erickson, of BYU’s School of Family Life, the article begins:
One of the most painful parts of the same-sex marriage debate is the accusation that those who oppose same-sex marriage must be blinded by bigotry . . . marriage involves more than just the adults who marry. Because marriage involves children, society has a deep and abiding interest in how it affects them.
You’ve had all of recorded history to come up with arguments against gay marriage and the best you’ve got is “Oh, won’t someone think of the children?!” You wonder why people think you’re a bigot?
Snark free: I get that it must be difficult to be accused of bigotry when the person being accused truly believes they are without bias. At the same time, Erickson’s entire argument hinges on the notion that gay people marrying is a threat to children; infertile couples, couples who cheat on each other, couples who never plan to have children, none of these couples seem to bother her, only gay couples. That’s why she and other people who oppose marriage equality get accused of bigotry.