Friday, September 30, 2011

Les implications de la langue, or how I learned to obsess about language

People used to ask if I'd read the dictionary. Go figure.

Note: this is a cross-posted article that Erica wrote for Go Girl Magazine.

A few years ago, a friend and I were talking about language and gender balances. I don't remember how we got on that subject, except we were both undergraduate English majors and this was normal for us. At any rate, he brought up the word brethren: what, he asked, would be its feminine counterpart? Even today, I'm still stumped. Sisters, or sisterhood, don't carry the same level of formality as brethren, and both already have their counterparts (brothers and brotherhood). What would we use as a counterpart to brethren?

Being multilingual myself, I'm used to the fact that languages are an expression of a worldview; my turns of phrase, the things that make me self-expressive, differ depending on the language I'm using at the time (I'm far more poetic in French, and less direct in Irish, than I am in English). For example, Irish doesn't really have a phrase for "I" the way we do in English. There's , which is joined with a verb to describe myself doing something, or mise, which is roughly translated as myself. But Irish doesn't have the same unitary concept of "I" that can be found in English, French, or Spanish. Similarly, those of us who grew up speaking English are all familiar with the confusion we felt when we learned that other languages give gender to basic nouns like tables, chairs, and plates. Even worse, different languages gender these nouns differently!

For a long time, I thought that the gendering of nouns was silly. Did French really need to distinguish between le and la for basic household items? Old English used to distinguish between things, though seemingly arbitrarily (the roots of the words wife and woman carried two different grammatical genders), and we managed to give these up to use the much-more-neutral the. If I'd become a true linguist, I would've delighted in sorting out the genders of various nouns to see if there was a broader pattern of discrimination. Were all feminized nouns, for example, the ones that could be associated with house, hearth, and home? Why not generate a new neutral way of saying le and la, the way German did?

The more I've thought about it, though, the more I've realized that simply gendering the form of "the" that a language uses isn't the only way to distinguish patterns of gendered thought. Many native English speakers are probably familiar with the unofficial gender of ships, cars, and other machines ("she," in case you were wondering), but there are other colloquial examples as well. What about slut and its increasingly-popular counterpart, man-slut? Purse and man-purse? Or what about the other terms we so often feel the need to specify: doctor and female doctor, captain and female captain, and others? In English, we pretend at neutrality, but often we have to address the cultural assumptions behind the vocabulary we use. Slut is assumed to refer to a woman, while a captain is presumably male. I don't think that French gendering necessarily highlights a history of discrimination, but I think that English gendering might indeed.

To come back to the brethren point, consider what it implies. It's an archaic plural form for brother, and yes, sistren (a plural for sister) is its binary counterpart. However, brethren is still a term used today to refer to a formal body of comrades, while sistren just sounds silly. Brethren still fits in particularly formal contexts, especially religious and Masonic ones, where the term really found footing as a formalized way of recognizing group membership. To me this begs the question: where were the formal groups of women at that time? Oh right. The survival of one term but not the other, while clearly more complex than just this analysis, nevertheless points at the disparate conditions that men and women faced when forming and maintaining formal groups back in the day.

Another example: look at the colloquial terms for husband and wife in French, mari and femme. Both come from the Latin terms for man and woman, though the Latin for man (maritus) carried the connotation of being married. The French words for man and woman, however, are now homme and femme, homme being derived from the Latin for human or man (marital status going unmentioned). Again, the complexity of etymology means that I need to specify that these are simple inquiries that leave a lot of variables untouched; however, do other readers notice that a French man's identifier changes based upon his marital status, while a woman's does not? This could go in a couple of different ways: either the woman is constant and unchanging while her husband must adapt to his new status, or the woman, historically being the property of various men, is unchanged by marriage because she gains nothing while her husband gains control of her fortune. Did either of these interpretations of archaic French social structure play a role in the development of these modern French words? I have no idea, but it's fun to speculate.

As I continue these lines of thought, I find myself wondering what other languages might indicate about their previous and current social interpretations of sex and gender. As noted, not all grammatical genders bear any relationship to social genders, but I firmly believe that language and culture do inform each other in some capacity (again, just think about the word slut and you'll see what I mean). When you think about the languages you've encountered, and the cultures using these languages, have you ever noticed historical or behavioural parallels? Even when you take it down a notch and just look at a word's history- for example, bonfire, which comes from the Irish Oíche Samhain tradition of setting tine cnamh, or bone fires- you learn so much about the culture that generated it (Oíche Samhain, by the way, is the origin of Halloween). What are some of the funny, interesting, sexist, cool, horrifying, or just plain bizarre linguistic things you've noticed in your travels?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In the news this week

Feminism in the news? Never!

To start off, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has announced that women will now be permitted to vote in municipal elections and even run for positions on the Shura Council. I'm equal parts excited and hesitant about this new decision. On one hand, BIG APPLAUSE that the Saudi government has finally decided not "to marginalise women in society in all roles that comply with Sharia." On the other many elections does this actually include? So far, there's been one municipal election- the only public election in the country- and we still don't have word on whether Saudi activists have been successful in convincing the government that driving isn't a violation of Sharia. But it's a start!

Not headline news, but still important, is one author's response to a young girl's t-shirt at cheerleading practice. We get all riled up when WalMart sells children's knickers with "credit cards only" printed across the bum, but somehow we fail to be upset when Nike markets a t-shirt that not-so-subtly suggests that nonintellectual sideline activities are the proper place for women and girls?

On a more personal note, I was pleased to see this piece about Anna Paquin's continued public support of LGBTIQ rights. The article isn't that great- mostly celebrity gawking- but it highlights Paquin's self-outing and the way her husband publicly supports her. As a bi-queer woman in a monogamous marriage with a cis guy, I sometimes find it difficult to sort out my place in a movement where my relationship makes my sexuality publicly invisible. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who forces visibility on the diversity of sexuality and relationships by being outspoken!

Finally, here's an interesting piece from the UK rag The Daily Mail, which- while both poorly-written and rather offensive- does draw attention to disparate birth rates among women in different socioeconomic classes. If what the article says is true, then women in higher socioeconomic classes are having fewer children at a faster rate than women in lower socioeconomic classes. While I think the article fails to prevent any sense of "ZOMG POOR PEOPLE ARE TAKING OVER!!1!" or similarly ignorant interpretations of the data, I believe that the numbers could be important nonetheless. If the data is accurate, then it'll be important for us to reconsider broader social access to things like daycare, prenatal care, and parenting support because the broader social paradigm won't be "do it on your own" anymore.

That's it for this week, folks! Stay tuned for next week, which may or may not turn into a "The Daily Mail is pissing me off!" post.

Review of Slumdog Millionaire: A Guest Post by Tatiana

This guest post was originally posted by our friends at Btch Flcks.

Best Picture nominee Slumdog Millionaire
This is a guest post from Tatiana Christian.

Set in modern day India, Slumdog Millionaire is heralded as a classic fairy-tale, rags to riches sort of story. Jamal (played by Dev Patel), a 20-year-old resident of Mumbai, is a contestant on the ever-popular Who Wants to be a Millionaire with Prem Kumar (played by Anil Kapoor) as his host. The film starts off with Jamal being tortured by police officers, demanding to know if he cheated during the game. As a “slum dog,” Jamal grew up impoverished and uneducated – so how could he possibly know the answer to a question such as “Which statesman is on the 100 dollar bill?”

The context of the film is that of abject poverty; a group of Indian boys are playing cricket in what looks like an abandoned airstrip before being chased away by police. As Jamal and his brother Salim (played by Madhur Mittal) race through the slums, we get an eagle-eye view of the poverty in which they live. Between the dirt roads, homes made of metal and stone are clustered together. The movie doesn't hold back from the specific reality of our main characters. 

As the young children race through the alleys, we get shots of the garbage floating atop the water. There’s a scene of a young man wading through the river, throwing trash into a large plastic bag. The lack of general infrastructure is depicted in two scenes where Salim charges people to use an outhouse and where many women are shown washing clothes in a common area. 

The concept of poverty is incredibly important when we examine Latika’s (played byFreida Pinto) role in the movie. In India, women hold a lower place compared to men, even to the point of increased gendercide [in the event that a woman discovers she’s pregnant with a girl]. This preference for the male experience is captured throughout the film. 

We first see Latika when Jamal watches his mother bludgeoned to death by anti-Muslim Hindus. The boys are chased through the city, and we get a quick glimpse of a girl standing between two buildings. She’s motionless despite the chaos around her, and only begins to run when beckoned by Jamal. As they race to find help, with the uninterested police playing cards, Latika waits on the other side of the road. Like before, she only runs once Jamal summons her. 

Latika continues to be a rather passive and almost mute character as she follows our main characters around. The boys have found shelter in a gigantic crate, and it’s pouring while Latika stands in the rain, shivering. Jamal and Salim bicker over whether or not to let her in – and much like before – Latika is given permission to act as she crawls into the crate, soaking wet. 

The disempowerment of poor women in India is also reflected in this film. According to Rashimi Bhat, “Women and girls have less access to food, education and health care than men and boys. Hence, they may face poverty more severely than men.” This concept is seen when the children are discovered by Maman (played by Ankur Vikal), a man who rounds up children and forces them to act as beggars. Maman asks the children to sing for him, and those who can are blinded because they earn more money that way. 

At the risk of having his brother blinded, Salim – who was momentarily granted a second-in-command-type position – tells Jamal to run. Latika joins them as they escape and eventually they find themselves trying to catch a moving train. Both Jamal and Salim have boarded, but Latika is still trying to keep up. When she finally grabs onto Salim’s hand – he pulls away, leaving her to Maman and his men. 

Salim isn’t atypical in his hatred for women – or at least Latika – as he is living in a country where every twelve seconds a baby girl is aborted. We also see his dislike for females when he is bossing the other children around, and he grabs a sleeping baby from the arms of another female child. He carries the wailing infant to Latika, telling her to hold it because it’ll fetch double. At first, Latika refuses, but when Salim threatens to drop the female infant, Latika gives in. 

The fate of Latika versus Salim and Jamal is pronounced throughout the rest of the film. As a young, impoverished, and presumably uneducated orphan Latika doesn’t have very many options. The rest of the film is dedicated to the exploits of the brothers who board a train going anywhere – stealing food, getting kicked off, and then boarding again. They wind up at the Taj Mahal where Jamal is strangely mistaken for a tour guide, which allows him and his brother to start a racket of stealing foreigner’s shoes. 

Meanwhile, the fate of Latika can only be guessed at until Jamal resumes his desperate search to discover she’s become a child prostitute. When the boys go to search for her, this is probably the only time in the movie where we see an abundance of women. In the film, their purpose is to only serve the men, and we see glimpses of Latika dancing for an older man. Jamal and Salim burst in to save her, only to have Maman waltz in. Latika is, once again, portrayed as being powerless as she simply watches as the men argue over her fate. She doesn’t protest or otherwise attempt to run away.  SPOILER: Once Salim kills Maman, they escape to an abandoned hotel. (end spoiler). 

Once at the hotel, Jamal and Latika discuss destiny, which has “bonded” them and is what compelled him to search for her. There is a scene where Latika is taking a shower, and she comes out to get a towel from Jamal. She asks if Salim is still there, who contorts his face with disgust then promptly leaves the hotel room to visit Javed (played by Mahesh Manjrekar), the nemesis of Maman. It’s presumed that he has sold Latika’s virginity to him because he comes back to the hotel, and kicks Jamal out with a gun pointed at his head.

In this scene, Latika comes out and tells Jamal to go – perhaps to save him – and heads back into the room with Salim. This is the last time that Jamal sees Latika for several years. 

Bhat says that women in India have: “Lesser means - assets, skills, employment options, education, legal resources, financial resources - to overcome poverty than men, and are more economically insecure and vulnerable in times of crisis.” After this incident, we see Jamal working in a call center, serving tea to the employees while Salim has settled for a life of crime working for Javed. Jamal lies his way into Javed’s mansion when he sees Latika standing on a balcony, and when he enters the house, she’s excited to see him but then emotionally retreats. 

Jamal notices a bruised eye, and tries to convince her to leave with him.

“And live off of what?” Latika asks. 
“Love.” Jamal replies. 

This exchange is paramount to understanding Latika's role in life (that of which we see in the movie). Latika has been forced to live with or abide by the rules of men who were more financially powerful, while also lacking any skills to live on her own. In this sense, she settles for an abusive, coerced relationship because she doesn't know how to survive. Jamal, who doesn’t really understand what it means to struggle as a woman, suggests something impractical. It highlights his ignorance of her situation, his male privilege. 

But, he tells her that he’ll wait for her at the train station everyday at 5pm. Surprisingly, she shows up, and for a few moments they’re reunited until Salim and his thugs come to re-kidnap her.  It’s very telling to me that in the first (and only) time that Latika has fought for what she wanted, it’s immediately thwarted and ends with a kidnapper cutting her on her face. The extreme violence that Latika experiences when trying to exert her independence is overwhelming. 

After this, Latika is taken to a safe house while Jamal is on his final question for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. While Javed and his thugs are busy with dancing girls, Salim gives Latika his cell phone and the keys to his car, as a way to atone for his past wrongdoings. This is incredibly important because while Latika experiences freedom, it’s through the assistance of a man (and one who sold her). But it’s also important to note that she’s not escaping to be free, she’s escaping to go into the arms of yet another man. 

Tatiana Christian is a 20-something blogger who loves to blog around race, gender, media, and how personal experiences allow her to explore issues regarding social justice. I love to spend time on Twitter following and participating in conversations that help expand my understanding of the world. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let's Talk Shoes

Image courtesy of Herr_Bert

High heels make your calves pop.

High heels make your butt and chest stick out.

High heels make your legs look longer.

High heels make your feet smaller.

High heels make you taller.

High heels are professional.

High heels cause bunions and arthritis.

High heels cause lower back pain.

High heels damage your knees.

High heels are the modern equivalent of corsets and foot-binding.

High heels keep you from running away - that's why men like them on you.

You've probably heard most if not all of these statements about high heels. You probably know feminists who complain about high heels for the health problems they cause, but you probably also know feminists who love high heels for the image of height, power, and professionalism that comes with them. And you're probably bored with hearing the same old arguments about high heels.

But I want to talk about shoes, yet again. Why? Because I have fallen desperately in love with Birkenstocks.

You see, Birkenstock is a German shoe company that does the craziest thing: it makes shoes and sandals that are shaped like feet. If you're a man, you're probably thinking, "Yeah? So? My shoes are shaped like my feet." If you're a woman, you're probably either crooning to your own birkenstocks right now or noticing that the shoes you're actually wearing are shaped like a boomerang. The soles of my birkis fan out where my toes fan out, instead of growing tight where my toes fan out.

Crazy, I know.

Did you know that your feet are one of the most sensitive parts of your body? And did you know that what happens to your feet tends to affect everything else that goes on with your body? All your joints, your aches and pains, your posture? Of course you knew. You know this stuff. But, really think about it for a minute. That's pretty intense, huh? Especially since it is so hard to find shoes that actually treat your feet well - and which you can also wear in a formal, semi-formal, or professional setting. I mean, for men that seems pretty do-able. Men's dress shoes have a pretty standard shape to them, and while they may not all be comfortable, they seem to at least fit the shape of your foot. But when it comes to women's formal shoes, heels are hell, and flats don't provide any support - not to mention, they either fall off or pinch.

I don't intend to advertise for any shoe companies (though this sounds very much like an ad), so I'll drop the issue for now and move on. But seriously, when designing shoes that are the shape of feet is so logical, who on earth is designing all the boomerang-shaped high heels?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Question of the Week: What (Who) is a Feminist?

In response to last week's post, "Confessions of a Child Feminist," Brett wrote the following comment:

"This is a funny title for me: I don't claim it, but others apply it to me. The first time I was called a feminist was by an ex-girlfriend's mother, who apparently thought some of my blog posts were very interesting. I know there's no litmus test required here, but what does the word feminist even mean?"

I'm not sure I'd ever considered what "feminist" means, in light of NAW's commitment to avoid litmus tests. Obviously, we don't want to be prescriptive around here. The contributors often disagree - you have a Mormon feminist like me, who thinks eliminating pornography and sex work would go a long way toward creating a more equal world; and alongside my feminism, you've got a bi-sexual, Catholic feminist like Erica, who believes that sex work and pornography can empower women. We have radically different views in that area, but we get along.

So, I'm going to throw this question back at our readers: what does the word feminist mean to you? Does it have a plurality of meanings that change depending on context, or do you have one steady, constant definition?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Other Side of the Looking Glass

When I was growing up, I had limbs like toothpicks. I was a picky eater who preferred going hungry to eating something she didn't like, and I lacked the ability to eat large quantities of food. As I grew older, I found that I responded to stress or despair by eating less, if I ate at all. So as a high school student and as an undergrad at college, I had a BMI that fluctuated between the top of underweight and the bottom of a healthy weight range.

But even though I was skinny, I sympathized with others who weren't. I got upset with others for using the word, "fat," and I insisted that others who were skinny like me should be more understanding toward those who didn't have our fast metabolisms. And my fast metabolism drove me crazy. I seemed incapable of eating enough to satisfy my appetite. People tended to assume I was healthy because I was thin, but I didn't exercise, and I knew I wasn't consuming enough nutrients - at times, I wasn't consuming enough calories, either.

In grad school, though, things changed. My body changed in general - I went from vision that was better than 20/20 to an optional prescription for glasses - but I also noticed I was a little wider. My metabolism wasn't as fast as it had been before. I wasn't worried about my size, but it got me thinking that I really should start a more regular exercise routine, as I had long intended to do. So I began exercising 5 or 6 days a week, and while I probably didn't lose pounds, I developed muscle tone and felt a bit trimmer. The exercise routine seemed effective, so I stuck with it.

But I eventually settled into a routine of exercising only every other day, at the same time that I grew used to eating richer foods. My lifestyle changed for various reasons (mostly grad school stress, but also a string of seasonal bugs that prevented me from exercising regularly in the winter), and all those reasons were pretty understandable. But I still gained a few pounds, and suddenly I found myself in the uncomfortable position of worrying about my weight, for all the reasons I know are wrong.

I know my health isn't at risk - my BMI has changed from the bottom of a healthy weight range, to the middle, and in general I have an active, healthy lifestyle. My doctor isn't concerned either. But her nurse asked if my weight was something I wanted to discuss, and that question alone is enough to make me wonder what others see when they look at me.

I know I shouldn't care what others think of me, but I still do. It still bothers me that others say I "don't look big" now, instead of saying they wish they were my size, like they did in high school. It bothers me that the bathing suit I bought a year ago is now  a tad snug. And it bothers me that others think I look my age, instead of younger than my age like they used to say. Mostly, though, it bothers me that any of this bothers me. That I worry about my size for social and asthetic reasons, not for health reasons.

When so many other people face health challenges and significant discrimination for their size, it feels almost self-indulgent to worry because I'm in the middle of my healthy weight range. But it reminds me of something a guest on the Colbert Report said awhile ago: we all experience the stigma of fat on a psychological level, even if we merely experience it through the fear of gaining weight.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yellowface, Rape as Comedy, 9/11 Racial Profiling and More, from the Blogosphere

This photo from the Toronto Slutwalk is courtesy of Anton Bielousov

First up, Racialicious has an article about the controversial practice where models tape their eyes to appear more Asian - a practice sometimes called "yellowface." While the model in question dismisses her decision as an attempt to simply create a different look, Racialicious considers it an act of consuming the Other. The basic idea here is that members of a dominant group enjoy fantasizing about belonging to a disadvantaged group.

Next, feminist Mormon housewives discusses ways in which women and other groups of oppressed people fight against their own interests. While I'm guessing readers will take issue with some of the authors' examples of oppressed people fighting against their own interests, this post raises some points that are well worth considering - there are aspects of life that we all take for granted, and it's easy to ignore even the oppression and discrimination that affects us, simply because it seems like a fact of life.

Then, we have a chilling tale of racial profiling on September 11. The story is a bit long, but the basic gist is that an entire row of people of color were removed from an airplane, handcuffed, and stuck in the back of a police car.

Among chilling tales, we've also got an article about sin culture, a term that the blog By Common Consent connects with rape culture. Essentially, BCC argues that when we counsel potential victims to follow a set of rules in order to avoid being victimized, we unwittingly encourage the stereotype that someone who breaks those rules is responsible for the behavior of his or her attacker. A friend of mine recently posted this link on facebook, and the ensuing discussion could have filled a set of encyclopaedias. Part of what makes this issue so disturbing is the rape-story-passed-off-as-comedy which BCC links in their article. While the men on stage listening to the rape confession acted uncomfortable, they cracked jokes about the questionable legality of his actions, rather than telling him to shut his stupid, rapist mouth.

And of course, we can't overlook the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell. It's been a long, hard fight to pull it down, so let's hope it stays dead.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Hello dear readers!

As you may have noticed, our posting has been erratic and rather sparse lately. This hasn't escaped our notice, in spite of our busy lives, and we're working on creating a new schedule so that you get regular updates. We think this should be ready to go in a couple of weeks (by October first, if you MUST have a deadline), so please don't run away from us just yet!

Looking forward to continuing the conversation,
Emily and Erica

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Confessions of a Child Feminist

I cannot remember a time before feminism. No, really. I was the kid who scandalized other first graders by saying, "sexist." The one who wrote to local clergy and asked if they were really listening to women - they didn't respond. I was the child who quietly instigated arguments in Sunday school by asking why the boys would all receive the Priesthood in a few years, while we never would. I was the child who associated masculinity with stupidity. And I was the child who bluntly shared stories about my aunt's abusive husband and couldn't understand why girl scout leaders wanted to pull me aside and talk to me individually after the lesson. After all, wasn't the oppression of women at the hands of men all out in the open?

As you might guess from those examples, I wasn't just a feminist as a child - I was a second wave feminist. To me, gender was all about oppression, and not just the kind that comes through cooties. I grew up with constant reminders that I was not, under any circumstances to call my aunt's husband Uncle. I heard stories of women, both in and out of the family, who were afraid to leave men who brutalized them. I watched grandparents focus all their attention on male cousins and heard friends and family asking my parents if it bothered them that they didn't have a son (my brother was only born when I was ten). So I felt as if I were at constant war with boys who kicked shins, pulled hair, and in general bewildered me by wrestling each other on the floor.

Since those childhood days of second wave feminism, I've revised my initial theories. I'm no longer bothered by LDS men holding the Priesthood while LDS women don't, because I recognize now that to hold the Priesthood is not to personally become more powerful than those who don't - it's to become responsible to serve others. I also recognize that there are many brilliant men in the world, no matter what their first grade handwriting led me to believe. All around, I'm a more moderate feminist than my childhood self.

But I still wonder, as I recall my childhood, when I first identified myself as a feminist. I can point to any number of influences that helped me become one. In addition to the many influences I've listed above, I happened to go to church in a ward (congregation) that was known for having many feminists. Many women in the ward were intellectuals, influenced by the local University of New Hampshire. Among the intellectuals, there was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Widwife's Tale. Certainly the author of such an openly feminist book as Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History influenced me indirectly, but I knew of her only as Sister Ulrich, the nice lady who sang in the choir and who once offered me homemade grape juice. (It was delicious). And who occasionally said remarkably frank things about LDS women, in public interviews.

So no, Sister Ulrich was not the reason I became a feminist, or at least not the primary reason. Others must have influenced me, from my grandmothers and mother to the friends I spent time with. Erica and I have been friends since kindergarten, and we influenced one another where feminism was concerned - but in what ways?  When I think back on that friendship, it's probably like wondering whether the chicken or the egg came first. Erica has always had a hankering for causes, and I've always had a lot of anger about injustices. In fact, I'm on skype with Erica right now, and neither of us can recall to what degree the other influenced our feminism - we simply know that we did.

I suppose what I'm discovering in all of this is that feminism is so deep in my bones that when others suggest I need to turn off my feminist lens for a moment, they ask something that is nigh on impossible. How can I deny my reality? But I'm curious what experiences others have had with feminism. How did you first come to the realization that you were a feminist?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Glimmer of Hope


Image courtesy of Micky's Photostream

I'm still pretty horrified by the creepy, creepy blog that feminist Mormon housewives revealed a few days ago, but I believe in putting the horror behind me, so I've moved on. Monsieur Le Creep will get no new traffic from me! Still, the discussion has continued at fMh, via their comment section, and wow - has it ever become personal! First someone outed the misogynistic blogger as none other than Tanner Guzy, then people who know him and his survivor ex-wife started chiming in. Turns out he didn't leave his wife after she refused to submit and then later meet a new victim wife - no, he cheated on the poor woman he was married to, with the woman he is currently married to. His first wife forgave him and believed him when he told her the affair was her fault and did everything in her power to fix things. But he left her, which to him was evidence that she was in the wrong - he actually bragged on his blog about how he'd been the one who was wronged enough to leave. And his creepy little following of Game believers (the capitalization is his) all comforted him and told him it wasn't his fault that his first wife hadn't submitted. (Ironically, she says she submitted quite a bit and gave in on everything. I'm prone to believe her, given the abuse victim 101 rhetoric she was using when he first left her).

Where is the glimmer of hope in all this? Well, as much as it bothers me that this man hasn't been ex-communicated, he admitted that he faced disciplinary actions for his "mistakes," so that's something at least. And apparently he got into big trouble for refusing to follow through on the divorce agreements and was even found in contempt of court. But that's not even the best part. No, the best part is that someone at fMh shared the link to his ex-wife's blog, and not only is she amazing, but if you read her oldest post and then compare it to a more recent one, you can see the amazing journey this woman made, recovering from this man's verbal and emotional abuse. At first she blamed herself and wanted him back, but in the end she recognized that she was not responsible for his actions and that she is fortunate to be free of him. So yes, there is some hope.

Still, I'm disturbed by how many of the things that this man says sound similar to things I hear from people who aren't cheating liars. Things like, men are more logical than women, and women like a man who leads them, not to mention all his theories on manipulating people.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Relief Society Power, One Mormon Man's Misogyny, and So Much More: Links of Note

Alas, our usual excuse for not blogging won't work, seeing as how none of our regular contributors are currently enrolled in classes. So now I suppose we'll have to blame our negligence on work. Dirty, rotten work!

And now, to the links:

First up, a writer at warns parents not to let their kids watch Dancing with the Stars - at least, not the episode with a transman, Chaz Bono. Why is this Dr. Keith Ablow so concerned? Well, he's arguing that kids who watch a transman dancing on TV might decide to become transsexual too. While Ablow is absolutely right to point out that humans model behavior, I hardly think that pretending transsexual folks don't exist is a healthy response. I also find it very hard to buy Ablow's assertion that he wishes Bono well - when you wish someone well, you don't boycott their decision to dance on TV. If Ablow is really concerned about the way kids will respond to Bono's decision to become a man, he should encourage parents to have healthy and open discussions about these issues with their kids. You don't have to agree with sexual reassignment, but Bono is simply dancing on TV, so why encourage ignorance by refusing to watch him dance?

Next up, I have a couple items of note relating to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church). As a member of this faith, I was excited and thrilled by the release of Daughters in My Kingdom, a book that is all about the history of The Relief Society, which happens to be the world's oldest and largest women's organization. For those who are unfamiliar with it, The Relief Society is an organization that is part of the LDS church, and through it women teach and serve one another and their communities. It is an organization I have belonged to for more than seven years now and one which enriches my life more and more as time goes on. This book is historic, for all the reasons you'll find at the above link, but I want to point out something very unique about it: this book is written and designed by women and for women. Already the entire Relief Society in my ward (congregation) has received copies, and we're eager to study them. I'll probably blog about this book once I've read more of it.

On a much less inspiring note, feminist Mormon housewives has brought a rather horrifying blog to our attention. While I hate to add to this jackass's person's popularity by providing the above link, I see a lot of value in discussing the views he holds. As much I'd like to pretend jackasses individuals like this don't exist, they do, and ignoring them won't make them go away. If you don't have the stomach to read misogyny-disguised-as-equality, here's the basic gist. A man whose blog had the url of "" used this blog to share his story of how his first marriage didn't work. He decided that the problems in the marriage come from his failure to dominate lead his wife, and he tried to "fix" things. When his wife refused to accept him as an alpha male (his phrase), he divorced her and got into the theory of what he calls Game. What is Game? It's a theory where men are supposed to act like alpha dogs and chase women, and "Women are biologically/spiritually programmed to be led by a dominant man. " Yes, that's a direct quote, which the author wrote on his new blog,  in response to a question I asked him. Essentially, this creep individual posted an explanation of how a woman sometimes disagrees with her husband in order to test whether he's fit enough to shut her down. His example of such "fitness testing" was one day when his wife asked permission to go over her clothing budget and he told her 'no.' He admitted that his wife denied that it was fitness-testing, and when I asked how he was so sure when she said it wasn't, he told me the following:

" are more inclined to be objective about the reality of fitness tests. Tests are an aspect of a woman that are more ingrained and subconscious than a cognizant choice on her part. My wife saying she wasn’t testing me is a perfect example. Just because she doesn’t consciously believe she wasn’t, doesn’t make it objectively true."

At the risk of sounding pretentious, dare I mention hegemony? Anyway, as I've discussed with several female LDS friends, the thing that's so infuriating about this man's blogs is that he reinforces sexist, misogynist beliefs that in no way jive with current counsel from the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Where President Thomas S. Monson warns against unrighteous dominion  and counsels couples to act as equal partners, this man has somehow interpreted the phrase "equal partners" to mean equal in worth but different in power. Please know, all readers who are not LDS, that I view this man as an aberration. His complaints about all the "beta males" in his ward (congregation) who disagree with him go a long way toward restoring my faith in LDS men. Know too that men like this exist, in so many organizations, and what they do to the women in their lives is unacceptable.  I'll just let the words of President Thomas S. Monson condemn this man:

Your wife is your equal. In marriage neither partner is superior nor inferior to the other. You walk side by side as a son and a daughter of God. She is not to be demeaned or insulted but should be respected and loved. Said President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Any man in this Church who … exercises unrighteous dominion over [his wife] is unworthy to hold the priesthood. Though he may have been ordained, the heavens will withdraw, the Spirit of the Lord will be grieved, and it will be amen to the authority of the priesthood of that man.”