Edie and Thea in the 1960s
A few of you have asked what I was going to write about Edie Windsor, so I thought I'd go ahead and post what I wrote, even though it's kind of incomplete.
The day before the Supreme Court arguments, I dreamed about them. For some reason, they were taking place in a high school gymnasium. And one of my biggest heroes (who was involved in the case, but didn't actually argue it) was arguing on behalf of Windsor. My parents were in the audience for some reason, and so was I, but I didn't seem to have a seat, and kept darting about the folding chairs to get a better view.
If you follow the case at all, you probably know some of the details: Edith Windsor's 40-year relationship with Thea Spyer, her longtime care of Thea after Thea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and the financial blow dealt to her after Thea died (because their marriage--in NY and Canada--was not recognized by the federal government).
Edie and Thea in the 2000s
When I think about how hard it was for me to come out in the 2000s, and how much anti-gay rhetoric I heard as a kid, I'm especially amazed by women like Edie and Thea, who were out and proud when it was much harder to be.
Regardless of how the case comes down, I'm overwhelmed by my gratitude to Edie Windsor and the many others, young and old, who have been fighting this battle for a long, long time.
Butch Wonders is teaming up with the Campaign for Southern Equality and a few other folks to host a March Madness NCAA tournament for charity! Here are some deets:
So what I need from you is a suggestion for a great LGBTQ organization this tourney could benefit. Please put your suggestion, and your reason for thinking the charity is awesome, in the comments.
On Monday, I'll post a poll based on your suggestions, and BW readers will get to vote on which charity we'll support!
More details to follow. I'm looking forward to your suggestions! (And if you feel compelled to tweet this, which I hope you will, use #mad4equality.)
Suzanne Venker, author of How to Choose a Husband and make Peace With Marriage, wrote a short column on foxnews.com last week that incapsulates a whole bevy of misunderstandings about how gender works, what the goals of the feminist movement are, and even about the logical interpretation of evidence.
The column's central claim is that the feminist movement is responsible for the supposed "decline" of heterosexual marriage. Because women have been "told" that they are equal to men, they pursue goals ultimately incompatible with their greater desire to have a family. As Venker says in the video interview posted above that column, "Women have become overdeveloped in their masculine side... because they have been groomed for a life in the marketplace, rather than a life at home."
At their core, she writes, men and women are different. People with children "know [that] little girls love their dolls and boys just want to kick that ball." Men and women are different creations, and as a matter of biological determinism, they inherently want different things. Venker then cites continuing gender inequality as proof that men and women are different: "Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn't mean they want to. That we don't have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades."
So, let me get this straight: Gender inequality is proof of inborn gender differences? What a useful concept. Now we know why there are so few obese movie stars: obese people don't want to be movie stars. And why there are so few out gay politicians: Gay people don't want to be politicians. And why, proportionally, there are so few black partners at big law firms: black people have little desire to be partners at big law firms.
See how easy life can be if you just ignore social processes and assume that all human outcomes are solely a product of personal choice?
Venker posits that the whole notion of "equality" is problematic. She writes that "the problem with equality is that it implies two things are interchangeable – meaning one thing can be substituted for the other with no ramifications. That is what feminists would have us believe, and anyone who contradicts this dogma is branded sexist."
I don't know where she got this notion of equality, but it's not one I've ever heard. I've always thought equality meant two people had the same amount of value, the same opportunities, the same rights. I didn't know it meant we could just swap one person, willy nilly, for another. I thought it meant that I, a youngish white lesbian, and Thomas Sowell, a straight black 80-something conservative, each got one vote, the same right to counsel, and the same chance to protest a government decision in a public location. Under Venker's logic, equality actually means that you could swap Sowell and me in virtually any circumstance "with no ramifications." To this nonsense, I doubt either Sowell or I would agree--and I don't think it would make us racist, sexist, or any other "-ist" (any more than I'd be bucking feminist notions of equality by giving my seat to an elderly woman on a bus).
Venker's argument would make more sense if we lived in a world where men and women weren't socialized so differently--a place where little boys and little girls were treated the same, where parents-to-be weren't gifted with different sets of toys based on the sex of their child, where there were equal numbers of male and female role models in every profession, where women's "formal" clothing didn't constitute teetering heels and displays of breasts and skin, where there wasn't one collection of traits associated with masculinity and an entirely different one associated with femininity. We do not live in that world. And because we do not, we are foolish to assume that anything we do is just a product of biology.
Of course we are influenced by our genes. (Heck, all the socialization in the world didn't stop me from being a dyke.) But our genes merely set the stage. We grow into a version of our selves based on how we are socialized. A little boy jumps around and he's told, "You'll make a great basketball player!" A little girl jumps around and she's told, "You'll make a great dancer!" From day one, we are mired in social experiences--and many of these social experiences are heavily, heavily gendered. It is not as simple as parents forcing little girls to wear dresses or making little boys play baseball. Each of us is born with a hundred different possible, valid versions of our "selves" inside, and the collection of possible selves is different for each person. But which version we actually grow into is a complicated dance between predisposition and socialization (and I'd wager that socialization is doing a lot of the leading).
On one level, arguments like Venker's are easily dismissed because they seem so patently sexist--it's easy to chuckle at someone who thinks society is going to hell in a handbasket because we're ignoring biological destiny. It's also easy to roll our eyes at the (thoroughly and measurably absurd) notion that women are being "groomed for the marketplace" and have overdeveloped "masculine sides."
But I think it's more invidious than that. By misstating and oversimplifying the arguments of feminist and gender theorists, and by downplaying or ignoring the vastly different ways in which men and women are socialized, Venker becomes an apologist for material inequality. Why, after all, should we work harder to equalize opportunity if existing disparities prove intrinsic differences? If equal rights on paper make opportunities equal, then anyone who squawks and protests about inequality and wants to improve the world is just engaging in a silly, anachronistic waste of time.
Big news: the Supreme Court just agreed to take on two BIG gay rights cases this term:
Case #1 involves the so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act (or DOMA), which is the federal law that says that even if your state allows gays to marry, married gays don't get federal benefits like Social Security or the ability to file joint tax returns. This case isn't about whether states have to legalize gay marriage--it's about whether if a state recognizes a gay marriage, the federal government has to play along.
Case #2 comes out of California (see my previous post explaining gay marriage in California for background). It deals with Prop 8, the ballot initiative whereby those lily-livered California liberals voted to amend their state constitution to take away same-sex couples' right to marry. In this case, the Supremes could hand down many possible rulings, some of which would affect only California, some of which would affect the whole country, and some of which would kick issues back down to the lower courts.
Neither of these cases necessarily has national implications for gay marriage (though they could--#2 especially), but they are still both Very Big Deals, particularly if you share my belief that gay rights isn't "just another issue."
I'll wrap it up here and write more later, as this all develops. Here are some links to media coverage of the issue:
What do you think about the Court's decision, dear readers? Are you optimistic?
BW NOTE: This is a guest post by a reader who wanted to remain anonymous. She recently faced the dreaded decision of pissing off a friend or wearing a (ugh!) dress...
A few months ago, my cousin cast me as a bridesmaid in her wedding. Sensing my possible reluctance in the wardrobe department, she immediately informed me that I would be wearing a dress. Period. Because my cousin and I grew up together as friends, I made no verbal protest (BTW: This BW post is a must read for any straight bride with a lesbian (non-femme) bridesmaid).
As details of the dress leaked, my dread grew. The bride had selected a purple gown with "challenging" qualities from top to bottom. On the bottom, the bridesmaids would sport a train (i.e. a bunch of fabric dragging behind us). On top, we would endure a strapless bodice with boning. For those unfamiliar with boning, a little history lesson: Boning (in the context of fashion) refers to the straight-jacket-like metal that serves to hold in your fat and position your breasts appropriately yet provocatively. Historically, dress designers used actual whalebone.
When the bride began sharing details of the dress, I might have failed to exhibit the requisite level of enthusiasm (one of my flaws is an inability to conceal disdain). When the bride inquired, I politely reminded her of my hatred for dresses, lace, and frilly things.
During the early stages of the engagement (a year or so before the wedding), I felt comfortable airing my concerns to the bride. During one conversation, my cousin pointed out that I had worn a dress to her sweet sixteen and to our high school homecoming dance. I had indeed. I went to a very homogeneous high school and dared not defy convention during my tender adolescence. The bride failed to grasp why, 10 years later, I couldn’t again conform for the purposes of her happiness.
Because I’m petite and naturally pretty feminine looking (though I definitely err on the masculine side of clothes, hair, and shoes), I think my cousin had trouble understanding why a dress would pose such a serious hardship. Had I presented in a more masculine way, she might have more easily seen how dresses don’t fit with my gender identity. I could have explained, but in the context of her wedding planning, it didn’t seem like the right time to delve into the intersection between my sexual orientation, gender identity, and wardrobe choices.
At one point, sensing my lack of enthusiasm for her dress selection, the bride proposed that I just rent a tux with a vest to match the bridesmaids' dresses. Now we were onto something! But before I could enthusiastically assent, she continued, more outlandishly: "While you’re at it, you could stand with the groomsmen, because that wouldn’t look weird." Her final suggestion—that I attend the bachelor party—made her sarcasm impossible to ignore. When I persisted in expressing enthusiasm for her suggestions (minus the strippers—she knows I find female strippers unappealing), she ended the conversation with an abrupt, "You’re wearing the dress and I don’t want to hear another word about it."
Even when I stopped complaining to her face, the bride continued to worry about my ability to function as a bridesmaid, inquiring as to who would handle my makeup on the big day. When I responded "me," the bride proved unsatisfied, correctly assuming that I lacked the materials and the will to adequately cake myself. Earrings were also strongly recommended to counter my short (read: dykey) haircut. I borrowed some from a co-worker, and with a running start managed to re-pierce my ear hole in a bathroom stall (only my left one had closed over the years).
I tried to respect the "no dress talk" rule, opting instead to write whiny entries in my journal and complain about the cost and fittings to my friends. As the wedding neared, my friends advised me to keep my big mouth shut and let the bride enjoy her big day.
On the eve of the wedding, the bride furnished each bridesmaid with a gift and enclosed a note. Most notes recognized the bonds of friendship, and the affection she had in her heart for each of us. My letter simply thanked me for not leaving her side even if it meant, wearing a bridesmaid gown. I felt a huge wave of guilt. The bride had been a good friend to me in other ways, and had welcomed my girlfriend at the wedding. Couldn’t I just have dealt with the fabric monstrosity, the bloody left ear hole, and the caked-on face for her special day?
At the wedding, I dealt with my suffering in the form of liquid relief, dancing the night away, and tying my train into a tail with a rubber band (and perhaps slapping my dance partners with it). With the help of only seven vodka-themed libations, I did have a blast. I wore the dress for 10 straight hours (I was given instructions not to change out of it at the reception), and I survived (though the tight bodice did a number on my back).
Post-wedding, when I think back to the note, I shudder. I have no idea how I could have handled it better. I wanted to be her bridesmaid, and I certainly didn’t want to ruin her special day. Had Butch Wonders posted this article a bit earlier, I might have sent the bride the link. That way, she’d have known how I felt and had a few creative solutions at her disposal (she was actually on the right track in her sarcasm). Even though my morning routine allows me to ready myself for work in three minutes or less, on my cousin's big day this low-maintenance dyke made for a high-maintenance bridesmaid.