A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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Michele Bachmann, evangelical feminist?

I think this is a question we should wrestle with on the left. Is feminism a big enough tent to leave room for people on both sides of the political aisle (and some degree of internal disagreement)?

I think it is. Feminism should not be a colony single political party. But … it’s also a word with a meaning. And it doesn’t mean “influential and female”. It also doesn’t mean “grudgingly willing to forego traditional gender roles” as the CNN article seems to suggest. Defining an “evangelical feminism” as “a set of viewpoints that’s moderately less regressive than other things the media associates with evangelicalism” is neither fair to evangelicals nor to feminists.

I won’t say that a Bachmann or Palin couldn’t, theoretically, stake a credible claim to the mantle of feminism. But I think doing so requires an attempt to articulate some sort of gender politics. It might include some things things many of us would find controversial—or even abhorent. But I don’t think we can call people “feminists” if they don’t meaningfully engage some of the issues feminism is concerned with.

Infringing on people’s rights?

Ryking and the Internet are involved in a heated exchange over the use of the term “Feminazi.”1 I think most of what needs to be said on the topic has already been said—but I do want to raise a serious question for Ryking, who writes:

Finally, as the post shows a movement of fake feminists who I (and others) call feminazis are infringing on the rights of others (i.e. men) under the guise of feminism.

Could you be a bit more specific? Who is infringing on the rights of men in the name of feminism? What rights? How are they being infringed? I understand that feminism is a pretty big tend. And, if you include everybody who self-identifies as feminist, you get an even bigger group. Some of them2 are going to advocate some pretty bad ideas. But advocating dubious ideas doesn’t infringe on anybody’s rights. What do you have in mind?

  1. Aside from this footnote, I’m not even going to touch this one. I don’t think anybody actually calls anybody a “Feminazi” unless they’re trying to provoke anger. Those who insist on using the term tend to correlate (imperfectly) with those who really don’t understand what feminism entails. And if you do understand the basic tenets of feminism but nevertheless throw around “Feminazi,” I’m a bit confused about motives. Is the goal to anger people on the Internet to give yourself easy targets? It’s really not the kind of word you would if you wanted to engage in actual discussion. 

  2. Palin. 

(Source: diadoumenos, via diadoumenos)

The Patriarchy I Know

Do not think of the patriarchy as a distinct and definable group of people such as unenlightened, rich white men. Think of it as a mental parasite that takes hold of part of our minds and tells us what to do, what to say, and how to live our lives. It is a bundle of tightly-wrapped lies that tell us what to expect—and from whom—along with the social structures that allow those lise to grow and spread, regroup and reshape. It is in the casual objectification of a sexist joke or a glossy magazine. It is in the irrational fear of immigrants or those of other religions. It is in the unconscious raising or lowering of expectations along racial lines. It is in the selection bias of attributing people’s human flaws to their gender. It’s in our language and narratives.

There is nothing imaginary or intangible about this. All of these things can be—and have been studied. We can chart results, disparate impacts. We see occasional shocking acts of overt misogyny or racism. The greatest trick the patriarchy ever pulled was convincing the world it didn’t exist. Don’t fall for it. Feminism has done well amongst academics—because its basic insights are indisputable to those who collect and analyze the data.

What can you do? To begin with, stop feeding it. Question your actions and assumptions. Pay attention to the words you use—and why you use them. How do we structure our expectations within relationships? Would it be better to do things differently?

Reactionary masculinity

The Sociological Images blog discusses an article by the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer that claims that the Medal of Honor is being “feminized”.1 Fischer writes:

But I have noticed a disturbing trend in the awarding of these medals, which few others seem to have recognized.

We have feminized the Medal of Honor.

According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one.

Bryan Fischer’s post is ridiculous—but let’s try to get past that. Why is the claim absurd? Why would Bryan Fischer make it anyway? What are the claim’s political implications? (Bear with me. This may be a long ride—but I think it’s worth it.)

We know what Fischer means

While I suspect everybody reading this thinks that Fischer’s post is absurd—we know what he’s trying to get at. He’s not saying that the Medal of Honor has a fluctuating gender. He’s not saying it’s being awarded to a woman. He’s not saying the medal now has a picture of a woman on it. He is saying that the Congressional Medal of honor is being awarded for things he assumes are the sort of thing women are supposed to do instead of things men are supposed to do.

And he thinks this is “disturbing.”

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Rape and False Pretenses

The case of the Israeli Palestinian who was convicted of rape after falsely telling a Jewish woman that he too was Jewish has raised a lot of interesting questions. Some see it as further proof that Israel is a horribly racist society. Their logic goes something like this. 1) This bad thing that happened to a Palestinian man shows that Israel is racist. 2) Okay, fine, maybe he was a bit rapey. 3) But he wouldn’t have been prosecuted if he wasn’t a Palestinian man. We know this because of how racist Israel is. 4) For proof that Israel is racist, see step one. It’s circular. I’m not saying that Israel shouldn’t be criticized. It should. But let’s stick to the logically sound criticisms.

But this conviction does raise the issue of whether consent is really consent if it’s obtained through fraud. And what constitutes fraud?

The traditional example of rape under false pretenses would be the guy who falsely claims to be the long-lost husband returned from the war. We don’t see that one much. So let’s try a different problem.

Suppose somebody says, “I’ll give you $10,000” to have sex with me.” This is, of course, soliciting prostitution. It’s probably illegal where you live. But it’s not rape illegal.

The response: “Deal.” Again, prostitution. Not legal. But the ensuing sex is consensual.

Then, “Oh. I lied about the money.” Is this rape? Without taking a stance one way or another on whether we thing prostitution is a good thing, we can agree that if consent was only given in exchange for a promise of money and that promise was a lie, the consent is also insufficient. Rape. It may not be aggrevated rape—but it is rape.

We eventually get into a grey area. If two people who are “looking fun” and both agree that their favorite band is Metallica but one of them is lying, is whatever sex ensues rape? Probably not—unless that deception was somehow a material part of the other’s consent.

But that’s not what happened in the Israel case. A man claimed to be a Jewish man looking for a serious relationship. This meshed well with the woman who was looking for a Jewish man looking for a serious relationship. And, unless we want to spend time speculating about the virtue or judgment of the woman in question, we need to take her at her word. Shared experience and beliefs are an important element of relationships.

We can use the same standards for rape through fraud as we use for normal rape. The statements must be false and known to be false by the speaker. They must be material and intented to be relied upon by the victim. And the victim must be unaware that the statements are false and reasonably rely upon the false statements.

This is the spot where people normally object. The objection is usually something like, “Hold on. Are you saying I can’t lie to women to get them to sleep with me? Not that I do that because I’m a nice guy. It’s just that some, uh, other guys do it. And I’m all in favor of not defrauding people into sex—but I’m even more into having sex. And wouldn’t this chill my ability to tell lies that aren’t all that fraudulent to people I want to sleep with?”

Yes. There’s a chance it would. And if being asked to tell the truth to people you’re sleepign with is mucking up your game, I’ve got an extra ticket to go see the world’s smallest violin played by the world’s weepiest puppy. Perhaps that will help you get over it.

An Arab man convicted in Israel of rape because he pretended he was a Jew when he had consensual sex with a Jewish woman has called the verdict racist.

BBC News - Israeli Arab who ‘raped’ a woman says verdict ‘racist’ (via curate, inascaldingjoy,robot-heart-politics)

In many jurisdictions “sex under false pretenses" constitutes rape. (PDF) I’m not terribly sympathetic to the Arab man. If consent is obtained by deceit, it’s not consent. And Not Consent remains Not Consent, regardless of whether we decide a woman really ought to have consented under the circumstances.

Palin makes a valid point that there is more than one kind of woman who should be heard in America, her political activity still encourages a kind of hateful “us vs. them” rhetoric that name-calls and silences in its own way.

Ohtheironyofit offered the best argument I saw on why Sarah Palin should not be considered a feminist. The divisive Us vs. Them rhetoric may be antithetical to feminism, and Palin may be inseparable from her divisiveness.

Sarah Palin … feminist?

In an effort to alienate all of my readers, I thought I would make the case that Sarah Palin should properly be called a feminist. Or, if not a full-fledged feminist, a sort of proto-feminist. I’ll lay out the argument—and you can tell me where you think I’m wrong.

As Catbus points out, “Being female and politically active hardly makes you a feminist.” And promoting yourself doesn’t count as promoting women generally or fighting for equality. But Palin might be doing a bit more than that. It looks like she might actively be both endorsing and actively campaigning for female, Republican congressional hopefuls. (And I say “might” because it’s not clear yet whether this is a deliberate push or a statistical anomaly.) Is a desire to push for a more representative Congress sufficient?

She’s also been criticized for campaigning against a number of Democratic women. This doesn’t make her not-a-feminist anymore than voting against Sarah Palin makes the Democrats not feminists.

Palin is clearly not an academic feminist. But could she be a feminist in the earlier model? Could she, for example, be a modern day Carry A. Nation, who walked into bars carrying a Bible and a hatchet, accompanied by hymn-singing women and proclaiming, “Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard’s fate”? (She was arrested about 30 times for smashing bars with hatchets and was barred from the state of Missouri.) Palin certainly seems dedicated to smashing the political status quo, regardless of who gets offended.

If Palin is dedicated to getting women (other than herself) elected into office, is willing to call herself a feminist, and seeks to empower (conservative) women politically, is there any grounds to say she doesn’t deserve the title? Palin certainly disagrees with some positions traditionally associated with feminism—but do any of these categorically bar her from the title? Or is it a question of degree?

If Palin supports some already powerful woman while advancing policy proposals that would disproportionately affect impoverished, single mothers, does this make her Not a Feminist or does it just mean that her policy proposals are no good?

For far too long, when people heard the word feminist, they thought of the faculty lounge at some East Coast woman’s college. And no offense to them, they have their opinions and their voice and God bless ‘em, that’s great, but that’s not the only voice of women in America.

Sarah Palin

As much as I disagree with Palin on most things, I think she’s right on this one. Can Sarah Palin truthfully label herself a feminist?