Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Ignorance of Anti-Feminism

So, this article over at the Eagle Forum is fun. In it, a lady bemoans how it is apparently okay for female politicians to tell their male rivals to "man up" and how, Because of Feminism, "women can do and say whatever they want about the opposite sex, but men can't do likewise."

Isn't this "critique" of feminism just so typical?

Think men are portrayed as dolts in the media? Believe society doesn't take the rape of men seriously? Concerned that male vicims of domestic violence don't get enough attention? I know, blame feminists! The one group of people in this binary-obsessed society actually trying to get society to think beyond the gender ideology that is responsible for such sexism.

For, in the reality-based world, it is a not-so-insignificant fact that many feminists oppose the use of gendered insults whether they are directed at men or women and, in fact, know it is the sexist Code of Male Chivalry that prohibits men from "fighting back" against female politicians. Not that male politicians often abide by that code, but more on that in a minute. I'd also like to note that I loathe male chivalry in competition because it is also a handy-dandy excuse that gives men an out if they lose to female opponents. If he wins, the man is just assuming his god-given place "on top." If he loses, he can claim he was too scared of being called sexist or of looking like a bully if he actually tried to win by giving 100%.

The above phenomenon is also sometimes used in co-ed sporting events.

Secondly, I find it unfuckingbelievable that someone is arguing that a problem with politics these days is that men are just too nice to their female opponents by not attacking them with gendered insults like how men are attacked.

This, in an age where rivals routinely hurl sexist attacks against female politiciansacross the political spectrum?

Are you kidding me?

Sexism against women is so pervasive, apparently, that it is invisible in plain sight. At best, it only becomes visible or worthy of condemnation when it is aimed at a conservative woman (see also, the rise of conservative women suddenly declaring themselves "feminists" when Sarah Palin is attacked. Not so much when Hillary nutcrackers were made, though).

It is interesting that the author of this conservative piece says that men are "stifled" by feminism. What is obvious is that a far more suffocating, blinding force permeates our collective air. That single most pressing anti-feminist question, What About the Men?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: No Excuses

So, I should preface this book review by noting that I generally avoid books and articles that, although largely well-intentioned, are of the Workplace-Tips-For-Women variety. Such advice, I've found too often, encourages women to adopt toxic hyper-"masculine" values, while failing to critique such values.

Ladies, the oft-repeated advice goes, it's time to "man up" if you want better salaries, more respect, and more executive positions. When a book takes this direction, it is assumed that more women in leadership positions is automatically good for all women (see, eg, Sarah Palin Feminism), regardless of the values these female leaders possess.

I was glad that Gloria Feldt's latest book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, mostly refrained from going down that path. (All quotations from No Excuses unless otherwise indicated).

In a nutshell, Feldt, a feminist and former president of Planned Parenthood, describes No Excuses as "an urgent call to action" for "women to embrace their power" because there are "no excuses" anymore for women not doing so (9). That is, external barriers no longer exist, but "internal barriers" prevent women from utilizing our full political power (18).

My first instinct upon reading this recurring theme throughout her book was that it can come off as victim-blamey. However, Feldt does spend ample time deconstructing the gender role conditioning and social factors that train women to, above all, be nice, put the needs of others first, and to be self-sacrificing, all very real internal barriers, albeit caused by external factors. Where her book is most valuable is when she discusses specific ways women can transcend this gender role conditioning while also challenging dominant workplace cultures.

For instance, disagreeing with the modern notion that any choice is a feminist choice as long as it's a woman making it, Feldt takes to task those highly-educated and "elite women" who, rather than making the leap into leadership positions in the public sphere, instead opt for "traditional help-meet and stay-at-home mom roles" (27). Rather than challenging workplace cultures that developed when it was assumed that every worker was a man who had a wife tending to his home and children, such women leave the workplace altogether, leaving family-unfriendly workplace cultures intact. And, as long as it is primarily women who forego careers in favor of raising children and doing work within the home, such "women's work" will continue to be seen as "outside the lifeblood of the economy" (103) no matter how many male professional careers are dependent upon such work.

Then, Feldt encourages women to redefine power. While power generally has had connotations of "power-over" and "oppression" (66), Feldt emphasizes a shift in definition to "power-to," "which supports and enhances whatever power the individual brings to a project, workplace, relationship, or civic activity" (81). Rather than being coercive, "power-to" works by developing consensus. Citing examples of women who fail to run for office because they mistakenly believe they aren't qualified enough and who fail to ask for the high salaries that equally-qualified men ask for, Feldt encourages women to recognize our power and to use it.

I know, it's not always an easy feat for women to ask for higher salaries given that women who do so are viewed more negatively than men. And also, women who are strong and assertive are also framed as "bitches" and "aggressive." Here, perhaps Feldt would answer that women should "embrace controversy," which is her Power Tool Number Four (153), which is always easier said than done, and not always a viable option for women desperate for a job, dealing with sky-high student debt, or living paycheck-to-paycheck.

And on that point, while I appreciated the real-life profiles and anecdotes of successful and powerful women, some of the women's experiences weren't always the most easy to relate to. Two twenty-somethings profiled, for instance, were Lauren Bush (as in George W's niece) and Ellen Gustafson, who seem to be doing great work through the foundation they created, but how much of their success is due to their class privilege, expensive educations, and contacts with VIPs? I'm also not sure the average reader, if such a thing even exists, could relate to the experiences of Jennifer Buffett, the president of a multi-billion dollar foundation, who is married to the son of one of the world's wealthiest people.

Nonetheless, coming in at a rather long 354 pages, there are many solid take-aways from No Excuses. While the Just Do It sloganing can come off as cheesy to some (including me), I did appreciate her specific advice to women to speak up for ourselves, to support other women, to advocate for women's contributions being taught in history classes, to speak with authority, and to be good online citizens (like by chiming in to praise a feminist's article or blogpost, or countering asshole misogynist commenters, hint hint).

Someone relatively new to feminism and women's studies will appreciate and learn from the historical context she includes to help frame the opportunity she sees for women. Feldt is absolutely right that we need to know our history so we don't fall into the same cycle of voluntarily relinquishing our power to toxic ideologies.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Southern Poverty Law Center Designates 13 Anti-Gay Hate Groups

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has issued a report profiling 18 groups which "pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities;" 13 of these groups will be designated as hate groups in 2011 due to their alleged "propagation of known falsehoods" and "repeated, groundless namecalling."

Among the groups profiled are such well-known anti-gay heavy hitters (also taken to task here in Fannie's Room over the years) as American Family Association, Americans for Truth [sic] About Homosexuality, Concerned Women For America, MassResistance, and the National Organization for Marriage.

Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins has called SPLC's actions a "smear campaign" against conservatives while the National Organization for Marriage's Brian Brown has called it an attempt to "marginalize and intimidate" those who oppose same-sex marriage.

According to the SPLC report:

"[I]n March 2008, [Peter] Sprigg [who is a FRC senior research fellow], responding to a question about uniting gay partners during the immigration process, said: 'I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them.' He later apologized, but then went on, last February, to tell MSNBC host Chris Matthews, 'I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.' 'So we should outlaw gay behavior?' Matthews asked. 'Yes,' Sprigg replied. At around the same time, Sprigg claimed that allowing gay people to serve openly in the military would lead to an increase in gay-on-straight sexual assaults."

Of NOM, SPLC writes:

"For a time, NOM’s name was used by a bus driver named Louis Marinelli, who drove a van for NOM’s 'Summer for Marriage Tour' this year. Marinelli called himself a 'NOM strategist' and sent out electronic messages under the NOM logo that repeated falsehoods about homosexuals being pedophiles and gay men having extremely short lifespans (see story, p. 32). In homemade videos posted on his own YouTube page, he said same-sex marriage would lead to 'prostitution, pedophilia and polygamy.'" But this July, NOM said it was not associated with Marinelli."

Personally, reading through the activities and messaging of the listed anti-gay groups, I think their own words indict them.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dear Warner Bros:

Do not mess this up.

Or, as Giles would say, "Oh, dear lord." [Removes glasses, wipes them off on shirt, puts them back on.]

Unlike many Buffy fans, I do not think Joss Whedon is absolutely vital to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot. I am a big Whedon fan, but I do subscribe to the apparently absurd notion that other talented, feminist writers exist who would be capable of doing justice to the Buffyverse he created.

Mostly, it would be the worst if Hollywood comes along and ruins Buffy by ignoring its major fan base of folks who appreciate strong, well-developed female characters by turning something that is ours into something for the "I only watch shows with strong or multiple female characters if they're hot" crowd.

I'd also appreciate it if Tara wasn't killed this time.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coach Whips Boys Into Shape

[TW: Child abuse; misogyny]

A male Mississippi high school basketball coach has been accused of "paddling" players on his boys basketball team as a means of discipline.

Three players, including one who the coach struck "daily and sometimes more than once daily" with a "five to ten pound weight belt," have filed a lawsuit. The coach has been suspended for 28 days without pay, but is still employed. In his own words, he justifies his actions thusly:

"I paddled my students... today, some of [sic] students have lost pride in their school and in their (sic) selves. Students are disrespecting teachers, administrators and other students by stealing cell phones, leaving off campus without permission, disrupting classroom teaching time, late for class and not following dress codes by wearing the pants on their butts and house shoes to school and on-court behavior. I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis."

Buried within the CNN article, we also learn that the coach "verbally abused basketball players, calling them 'sissy,' 'bitch,' 'wimp,' and 'soft.'"

This coach's actions embody the toxic, hypermasculine culture of sports at its very worst.

Through physical punishment, he taught his players that violence is okay- that, indeed, violence is necessary to "whip" those who misbehave into shape. With his slurs on half the human population, he taught boys that being a girl, or like one, is the worst thing a boy could be. Possibly, he justified his violence by telling his players that Real Men Take It, and that only wimps and sissies complained about it.

Although male coaches striking their players is relatively rare, or at least not largely discussed, their use of gendered slurs to denigrate women and girls is pervasive in the sports world. I hope we will one day start having national conversations about that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Fun With Totally-Made-Up Binaries!

Generally, I thought this Wall Street Journal article about communication styles, entitled
"She Talks A Lot, He Listens A Little,"
could have been a bit better by not making it about gender. I only say "a bit" better because of the way the author divides the world into simple binaries and uncritically accepts the dubious explanations of an evolutionary psychologist.

In case you didn't know, the world "really is" comprised of two different types of people: "talkers" and "non-talkers," roughly corresponding to "women" and "men," and this difference causes great frustration in relationships.

It can be difficult to take seriously such an absolute claim in a world brimming with nuance. For instance, I would categorize myself as existing somewhere in the murky gray boundaries of a "talker" and a "non-talker" depending on the communication context. At my blog, for instance, (if this even counts as "talking") I am decidedly a talker. In large groups, I am definitely a non-talker. In one-on-one settings, I am sometimes a talker (if the other person is not), sometimes a non-talker (if the other person is conversation monopolist), and sometimes (and most ideally) a little bit of both.

Nonetheless, while some might question that the world is divided into "talkers" and "non-talkers," many would take it as a self-evident statement of the obvious that men and women, because they are so vastly different, have vastly different communication styles.

Commonsense folksy folks wisdom tells us that, to men, women are annoyingly chatty and, to women, men are rudely uncommunicative. In reality, the myth of Mars and Venus elides the fact that incredible variation exists among each sex and that the sexes are much more similar to each other than they are different, even with respect to communication. For instance, from an article not invested in the gender binary:

"Another scholar who has considered this question, the linguist Jack Chambers, suggests that the degree of non-overlap in the abilities of male and female speakers in any given population is 'about 0.25%.' That's an overlap of 99.75%. It follows that for any array of verbal abilities found in an individual woman, there will almost certainly be a man with exactly the same array."

Not quite as exciting (or lucrative) as OMG Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, What Self-Help Book Can I Buy To Deal With This?!?!

Indeed, despite the heterocentrist title of the WSJ article, a gay man discusses how his communication style differs from his partner's. Whoops. So much for the sex/gender binary. Or, maybe the chatty partner is "the woman"?

But let's talk about this stereotype a bit more. Isn't it incredibly interesting that popular narratives regarding gendered communication styles consistently frame women as "talkers" and men as "non-talkers"? It's almost as though we don't live in a world where mansplaining is pervasive, where men constitute 80-90% of the voices on major opinion forums, constitute 84% of the voices on TV punditry on sunday morning talk shows, are 87% of Wikipedia contributors, are 85% of Hollywood producers, and constitute 83% of Congress.

Oh yes, I think we hear plenty of talking from men.

Indeed, one is led to wonder if this women-talk-too-much narrative is yet another way to culturally condition women to be even more silent than we already are by making us feel guilty for using our voices with the same entitlement and confidence with which men do.

Before ending here, I'd also like to highlight a fun evolutionary psychology "explanation" for the gendered differences in communication styles, uncritically accepted by the author of the WSJ article:

"Women also get a boost of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, when they speak to others, and estrogen enhances its effects. While men get this, too, testosterone blunts its effects. 'This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view—men can't defend their families if they are burdened with high levels of a hormone that compels them to make friends of all they meet,' says Dr. Legato, author of 'Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget.'"

The thing about evolutionary psychology "explanations" is that they don't always "make sense" in the way evopsych advocates assume are so very self-evident. Many times, multiple "explanations" could be offered for any given set of biological or hormonal factors and it's as though the evolutionary psychologist chooses one after-the-fact explanation that fits his (oftentimes ridiculously ignorant) man-as-hunter, woman-as-gatherer worldview.

For instance, an argument could also be made here that men not getting that boost of the "feel-good hormone" that women do upon communciation does not make sense from an evolutionary point of view as testosterone has, historically, made men more aggressive, less friendly, less interested in cooperation, and thus, has actually hindered male (and female) survival. And indeed, what is remarkable, is that humanity has been able to overcome this evolutionary impediment at all, although it is not at all certain that we will continue to do so.

But rather than, say, exploring how humanity has adapted to this hindrance in order to survive, the evopysch advocate instead essentially states that ooga booga men are still essentially club-wielding cavemen, women are gatherers with papooses tied to their backs and that's just the way things are! What is the effect? Another variation of the idea that Men And Women Are Inherently Very Different, this time with a subtext that justifies male violence and poor communication skills.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yabba Dabba Doo

Armchair evolutionary psychologists (and many of the professional ones) can be downright hilarious at times.

Observe, following an article about Cindy McCain's laudable opposition to gay bullying and the military's discriminatory policy toward gays, commenter "stedums" opines:

"as I have said for years, the female of our species is far more community-conscience than the males. Stems from the 'cave' eras. the males were always in pursuit of better/easier hunting realms, while the female had to contend with what they left behind: kids, other members of the community(with their needs and wants); something to go with whatever the males brought home (sometimes NOTHING). females easily adapt to many social/economic situations; males need hard and fast rules to live by(because they feel insecure and NEED rules)>>>females are like 'B' and 'A' students: they just need raw materials and guidance."

Note the total cocksure confidence with which stedums here Just Tells It Like It Is that, basically, all of the earliest humans of "our species" in all geographic locations throughout the world were hunter-gatherers who kept their womenfolk in caves to tend to stuff while the men went on swashbuckling hunting expeditions and that, therefore, Because Of Evolution, this set-up explains what "males" and "females" are like today.

People who think like stedum rarely have much familiarity with anthropology or sociology (or feminism, natch), but that doesn't stop them from thinking that culling anthropological knowledge and gender essentialism from a Crackerjack box and the award-winning documentary of a real-life cave human Encino Man is totally legit.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Breaking: Boys and Girls Are Inherently Different, Except When Boys Prove Worse At Stuff

Isn't it funny when anti-gay and anti-feminist advocates who claim that male and female humans have vast biologically-explained differences are subsequently found claiming that societal factors, rather than biological ones, explain the Boy Crisis in education?

On the one hand, they peddle the myth of sex/gender complementarity by, for instance, claiming that two men or two women should not be parents because each child needs a male and a female parent. But, when boys or men are found to have negative outcomes in a given situation, these same folks readily leap to alternative, non-biological and non-gender-essentialist explanations for these disparities, rather than following their own reasoning that these disparities can be explained by all of the inherent differences between the sexes they allege exist.

The latest purveyor of this theoretical hypocrisy is same-sex marriage opponent Maggie Gallagher, writing in The New York Post:

"In 2008, black men over age 18 were just 5 percent of the college-student population but 36 percent of the prison population. But it's not just race. Black girls consistently outperform their male peers. That means it can't be just genetics or family: Black boys and girls come from the same families."

Goddess forbid biological determinism and statistics be used to "prove" that boys are Just Inherently Dumber than girls, as has been done to girls pretty much forever whenever statistics put girls in a bad light. Nope, when boys show negative outcomes, it's all OMG, society/teachers/schools/girls/parents are failing boys, what can we do to solve this?! And while I agree with many societal explanations for such disparities, especially racial ones, I think it's worth noting how rare it is for anyone to say, "Well, now that girls have been attending school on parity with boys for awhile now, we are seeing that they are actually inherently smarter than boys."

When Larry Summers suggests that men are inherently better at math than women, anyone who's not a feminist hails the man as an anti-PC just-telling-it-like-it-is crusader, completely discounting all social explanations for Girls Are Bad At Math Statistics. Yet, were a woman to suggest that girls outperform boys in school because they are inherently smarter than boys, she would be railed as a misandrist feminazi bitch.

So here, I should note that I am sympathetic to the negative outcomes of boys, especially black ones, with respect to education. The statistics Gallagher cites are indicative of real disparities and I have no doubt that societal, economic, and racial factors, rather than genetic or biological ones, explain them.

What I am not sympathetic to is an anti-gay advocate of Gallagher's caliber who advocates harmful gender essentialism in other political arenas who co-opts the gender-disparities-can-be-explained-by-social-factors argument to further entrench her gender essentialist ideology. She does this by contriving an interesting explanation and incredibly sexist solution to the Boy Crisis.

Gallagher writes:

"Why are schools failing boys so badly? No one knows for sure, but a simple answer may lie in the books we ask boys to read."

You got that? Books. Not urban infrastructure, public school funding issues, racism, fatherlessness, poverty, or the criminal justice system.

Gallagher's "explanation" illustrates why, in general, I think we should be incredibly wary of simple answers to social issues, especially when they emanate from those with simplistic worldviews.

She continues:

"Like other males, boys are intensely status-conscious, aware of who is 'on top' and who is 'one down,' and they're acutely anxious to avoid being the latter.

They hunger for achievements that signal successful maleness (and will find it in violence and misbehavior if that's all the maleness society provides), and they avoid activities that get labeled as 'female' because, well you can't achieve status among boys by excelling at girly things.

Let's face it, reading has become a 'girly thing' in our schools. It's taught at earlier and earlier ages, when girls start out with certain developmental advantages. The girls start out ahead, and the boys are then given books that bore them and are encouraged to read by overwhelmingly female teachers (and by families that overwhelmingly lack fathers in low-income communities).

We have a gendered problem; we need to abandon genderless ideologies to find new solutions."

Notice how instead of criticizing the cultural denigration of "girly things," Gallagher is complicit in it. She accepts it as a matter of self-evident course that boys, being boys, would reject an activity associated with girls.

Her brilliant solution to the boy crisis in education is, I kid you not, for schools to create gender-segregated bookshelves.

Whew, that was easy!

Yet, oddly, and counter to her own gender essentialist argument that boys and girls inherently like different types of books, she suggests putting the same books on each shelf. Boys will just get the superior satisfaction of having their own special separate-but-equal bookshelf that isn't tainted by its association with girls. Nevermind, I suppose, the insidious message such a regime would send to girls, who would learn that, due to the suckiness of themselves and everything girly, boys couldn't be expected to do well in school if they had to draw their books from the same shelves as girls.

And, in a way, aren't these segregated bookshelves the perfect symbol for gender essentialism peddled by such hypocrites? Different labels slapped on incredibly similar substance for purposes of maintaining hierarchy that places boys and men "on top" (Gallagher's own words). And, isn't this such an incredibly predictable, and heinous, solution coming from one who dedicates a large portion of her professional life to ensuring a separate-and-unequal marriage regime for heterosexual and same-sex couples? It is a regime, I might add, that sends the message to all of us that some couples are better than others.

To end here, if boys truly reject reading because they see it as "girly," a far better solution for geting boys to read would be to encourage boys not to loathe, diminish, and ridicule girls and girly things. By only fixating on What's Best For Boys, and ignoring an evident instance of cultural misogyny that is harming both boys and girls, I would venture that Gallagher is part of the problem, rather than the solution.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Better Than

[TW: Sexualization of children]

A part of me wants to believe something was lost in translation, as I've seen several different versions of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's latest fun quote, this one in response to criticism lodged at him for sexual activity with an underage girl. Via the Mirror:

"Defending his decision to shower a teenage belly dancer with lavish gifts, the 74-year-old Lothario joked: 'It's better to be passionate about beautiful girls than to be gay.'"

Three things are happening here.

First, via this overeager display of heterosexual male sexuality, note that Berlusconi is discussing his sexual attraction to girls, rather than women. Many societies extend this entitlement to sexualize children and teenagers to heterosexual men but pathologize and demonize it in LGBT people and, especially, gay men. Indeed, Berlusconi himself argues that it is better to sexualize "girls" than it is for people to be gay. Being sexualized by men is what girls are; it is their very definition.

This, too, is how Rape Culture works. By framing a small segment of the population, few of whom are actually abusive, as sexual predators, men who blur the boundaries between adult and child female sexuality are seen as Normal and Healthy because their sexual drives are properly channeled toward the other sex, a sex that was designed for and exists to be sexualized by men. Male access to women and girls is guaranteed, while girls are taught that what's most important about themselves is their sexual appeal to men. Women sexualized under the male gaze remain in a state of perpetual childhood, not taken seriously by men outside the realm of sex.

Indeed, according to this Newsweek article, only 45% of women in Italy work outside the home and when they do, they earn 20% less than men (the latter figure, of course, being sadly comparable to what women in the US earn compared to men).

Which brings us to two. Re-read his statement:

"It's better to be passionate about beautiful girls than to be gay."

Here, he is speaking from the "Objective Male Viewpoint" wherein all humans are men, including the gay ones, and "girls" are the things that it's awesome for people to be "passionate" about. It is a viewpoint, sadly typical, that eradicates women from the category "gay" and from any role other than as the members of the sex class. Indeed, as someone with 95% of control over Italy's TV market, even Newsweek wonders if Berlusconi is intent upon "creating a world in which women are seen first and foremost as sex objects instead of professional equals."

Ya think?

Three, the Big Sin with respect to Berlusconi's latest sex scandal doesn't seem to be his improper sexual advances to a teenage girl, but rather, that he offended gay people, a group he and many others seem to believe is a group comprised mostly, if not exclusively, by men.

For instance, rather than calling him "creep" or "pervert" or "borderling pedophile," notice how the Mirror article cited above calls him "the 74-year-old Lothario," as though his fixation on objectifying and sexualizing women is a somewhat endearing quality of a dirty old man. If you click on the link, you'll see that the caption under his Totally Macho Sneering photo reads,"Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi sparked fury yesterday with a tactless jibe at homosexuals," as though his sexualization of girls and women is an inconsequential jibe not worthy of inducing similar fury.

With his quote regarding comparative worth of sexualizing women versus being attracted to men, I offer that what Berlusconi really meant to say is that it is better for men, and male dominance, to be passionate about objectifying women than it is for men to be passionate about doing the same to men. In this way, it is abundantly clear how rape culture, homophobia, and the sexualization of girls and women work together to preserve male supremacy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reactions To Studies Show Both Sides Exaggerate!

Thanks to commenter GXB for passing this article along to me. The Huffington Post has boldly declares, via headline, that "Child Abuse Rate At Zero Percent in Lesbian Households, New Report Finds."

I'm not particularly surprised by the actual findings of the study, but I am uncomfortable with this headline for two reasons.

One, it is misleading. The study didn't find that child abuse was at zero percent in all lesbian households, just that it was at zero percent in the 78 lesbian households examined. That is a positive finding in our favor, as it is much lower than the 26% of kids who in general American households who report abuse, but the finding is much less broad and more limited than the headline implies.

Two, because the headline is misleadingly absolute, opponents can easily attack it by pointing to just one single lesbian parent who has ever been abusive to her child, completely discrediting the headline's claim. Indeed, many Huffpo homophobe commenters did just that.

The study's findings are good news to lesbian parents and to the Gay Agenda. Unfortunately, misleading and hyperbolic headlines like this from perhaps well-intentioned LGBT and allied bloggers only diminish a study's legitimate findings and the good work that resarchers are doing. The facts about same-sex parenting and the adjustment of our kids are on our side. Let's not stoop to the propagandistic tactics of our opponents in making our case.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Whoops! Anti-gay Ordinance Accidentally Hurts People Who Matter

Via Alex Blaze writing for The Huffington Post, we learn that an anti-gay ordinance supposedly intended to only harm same-sex and unmarried couples is also now set to harm heterosexual married couples, thanks to poor wording in the ordinance.

The initative read:

"The city of El Paso endorses traditional family values by making health benefits available only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children."

As a result of it passing, city attorneys are now set to eliminate health benefits not only for gay and hetero unmarried couples, but for foster children and other kids who are not legal dependents of their caregivers, grandchildren of city employees, and retirees who are eligible for coverage through another employer.

Can I just say, OMG, how embarrassing!

Not surprisingly, police and firefighter unions have vowed to take legal action to stop the city from cutting retiree benefits. Cutting the gay benefits is apparently fine, though.

Interestingly (or perhaps not), as Alex notes, "marriage defenders" who organized the ballot initiative are now chiming in to clarify but but but we didn't intend to hurt people who aren't gay or living in sin. Thus, some City Council members are considering a new ordinance that would clarify that everyone but the gays and unmarried couples would get to keep their benefits.

Let's talk about this seriously for a minute.

During California's Prop 8 case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, "marriage defense" attorney Chuck Cooper informed us that:

"[T]he central purpose of marriage in virtually all societies and at all times has been to channel potentially procreative sexual relationships into enduring stable unions to increase the likelihood that any offspring will be raised by the man and woman who brought them into the world."

That is, societies, religious institutions, and our legal system limit marriage to one man and one woman and then extend a plethora of special benefits, rights, and privileges upon such family units because of the unique procreative sexual relationship between a man and a woman. It's not that "marriage defenders" deny marriage to gays out of animus, it's just that same-sex couples don't need marriage, they tell us. My response to this argument is typically (*clears throat*):

"Fine, if marriage is only between one man and one woman for purposes of properly channeling heterosexual sexuality, then put your LDS money where your mouth is and de-link civil marriage from every benefit that is not related to procreation and ban all heterosexual couples who are incapable of procreating together from marrying, because as it stands the over-inclusive nature of allowing such couples to marry combined with all of the benefits married couples get that aren't linked to procreation make it look like the Responsible Procreation argument is an after-the-fact justification for same-sex marriage bans to cover up the fact that the primary purpose of such bans is to hurt gay people."

What I've learned about these homo culture wars is that although "marriage defenders" readily devote reams of paper to telling the world how incredibly brave they are for publicly "saving marriage" on the backs of gay people, when it comes to taking a political stand that actually is unpopular, by saving marriage on the backs of any group other than gays, their silence is deafening.

So, back to El Paso.

If the reason heterosexual married couples get special benefits is because they are capable of procreating with one another, and the reason other groups don't get these benefits is because it would send the wrong message about marriage, then every single El Paso "marriage defender" must now oppose extending these benefits to retired cops and firefighters, grandchildren of employees, and foster kids under the reasoning that it's not so much that "marriage defenders" hate retirees, grandkids, and foster kids, it's just that such folks don't need these special benefits that are granted to legal spouses.

But of course that won't happen.

When it comes to tyrannical anti-gay ordinances like this, "marriage defenders" are incredibly willing to let these details slide. It's okay to grant some groups special rights even if doing so sends mixed messages about the One True Purpose of Marriage, but when it comes to gay people, Bans On Everything Must Be Maintained Or Society Will End!

In reality, far from preventing same-sex couples from enjoying "special rights," "marriage defenders" too often single out only gay people as being unworthy of the rights everyone else gets. And by doing so they admit through their actions that their advocacy really is mostly about their dislike of gay people and/or their sanctimonious disapproval of unmarried couples.

But, didn't we already know that anyway?

Friday, November 12, 2010

What Women Are

[TW: Sexual Assault, Suicide]

Via Shakesville, a 14-year old girl who accused an 18-year-old man of rape has commited suicide after "merciless taunting" about her allegations and "weeks of harassment became too much."

Melissa McEwan aptly notes:

"I would love to see this case open up a national conversation about talking rape accusations seriously, about victim-blaming, about victim-shaming and -silencing, the way that we've begun a national conversation about anti-gay bulling. But I suspect that's not going to happen."

And to that I would add, that's not going to happen because the categories female and human are still mutually exclusive. Anti-gay bullying and the suicides caused by it are atrocities that occur to a group that also includes men and boys. Indeed, have not all of the recent high profile cases in the media been instances of anti-gay harassment and gender policing of boys?

While this national conversation about anti-gay bullying is long overdue, I reckon we are having it at all in large because what is being done to LGBT people is being done to a group that is significantly comprised of cisgender men and boys.

Sexual assault, however, is a crime whose victims are predominately women and girls, making sexual assault appear too specific to the female to be seen as the more general human rights violation that it is. Whereas anti-gay bullying is rightly seen as abhorrent because gays possess the same human dignity as heterosexuals, sexual assault is a crime that too closely parallels the very essence of what women and girls are for in our pornified rape culture to be granted the same national conversations.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Somebody Call the Gender Police!

[Cross-posted at Our Big Gayborhood]

Perhaps you've heard of blogger Nerdy Apple Bottom's post about her young, adorable son's decision to dress as a female cartoon character for Halloween. She recounts her experience upon dropping him off at school in costume:

"Two mothers went wide-eyed and made faces as if they smelled decomp. And I realize that my son is seeing the same thing I am. So I say, 'Doesn’t he look great?' And Mom A says in disgust, 'Did he ask to be that?!' I say that he sure did as Halloween is the time of year that you can be whatever it is that you want to be. They continue with their nosy, probing questions as to how that was an option and didn’t I try to talk him out of it. Mom B mostly just stood there in shock and dismay...

[I]t also was heartbreaking to me that my sweet, kind-hearted five year old was right to be worried. He knew that there were people like A, B, and C. And he, at 5, was concerned about how they would perceive him and what would happen to him."

Many LGBT bloggers have picked up on this story, lauding the mother for her support of a son who might grow up to be gay. The son very well may grow up to be gay, and it is wonderful that the mother says she would continue to love him anyway. At the same time, I don't think it should be glossed over that this is less a "gay" issue and more a gender nonconformity issue. The horrified mothers were perhaps somewhat concerned that the child might be gay, but I would argue that they were far more concerned about the fact that he was a boy! Wearing a dress! Acting like a girl!

I write often about the intersections between LGBT advocacy, feminism, and gender policing precisely because, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, many of us go against society's mandate that our sexual and romantic partners must be of the (misnamed) "opposite" sex. Liberation from the gender police means liberation for LGBT people. Yet, whatever our sexual orientation, every culture has written and unwritten rules regarding appropriate behavior for male and female beings meaning gender policing affects all people, gay, straight, bisexual, and asexual.

Dresses and the color pink are, for instance, arbitrarily assigned to the female sex in the US, while suits and the color blue are assigned to the male sex. On an emotional level, men in the US are often conditioned to believe that expressing any emotion other than anger is un-manly, while women are conditioned to believe that they are allowed to express any emotion but anger. Countless examples exist, and vary incredibly by culture.

So, my question for commenters today is, how has societal gender policing (or the threat of it) stopped you from doing something that you have wanted to do in your life?

My personal example may appear somewhat backwards. I am cisgender woman and a lesbian who is somewhat androgynous. Although I am often told that I "look straight," I have never been invested in appearing all that feminine. I don't wear make-up, dresses, or heels and I don't carry a purse, all common markers of "female" in US culture.

And yet, despite my loathing of wearing dresses and everything "pink," I have always wanted to take ballet lessons. I think it is a beautiful art form and I long to try it. I still occasionally look up adult beginner classes and contemplate signing up.

However, I invariably decide against it when I see that the required clothing for women is usually tights and a leotard, two items of clothing I could not identify less with. Even in the few classes I have found that don't require such attire, I fear that I will show up as the lone woman wearing shorts or sweatpants and, consequently, will be ridiculed for not conforming to the Rules Governing the Proper Attire of Lady Ballet Dancers. I fear that the other women will mock me for looking too athletic- that they will call me too "manly" behind my back.

Feel free to share your experiences.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Assistant Attorney General, Bully, Fired

[TW: Anti-gay harassment]

Well, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, who launched a bizarre bullying campaign against openly-gay university student body president Chris Armstrong has been fired for, according to his boss, having "repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately us[ing] state resources."

Incredibly, but not surprisingly, Shirvell's lawyer is framing the incident like this:

"This smells political to me," Thomas told the newspaper. "There's been a tremendous piling-on against Andrew. The liberal media started this tempest in a teapot."

Ah yes, the old I'm not the bully, you're the bully for calling me a bully bit, with a dose of basic decency is just a bunch of liberal political correctness gone too far thrown in for good measure. The stock and trade of many a public homobigot.

Fortunately, Mike Cox, Attorney General of Michigan, aptly noted that Shirvell wasn't fired for exercising his First Amendment rights, but for harassment and borderline stalking behavior.

"According to Cox, Shirvell showed up at Armstrong's home three times -- including once at 1:30 a.m. Cox said that this early morning visit, especially, showed that Shirvell was intent on harassing Armstrong, not just exercising his right to free speech."

Shirvell also tried to get Armstrong fired, tried to "out" his gay and straight friends, and harassed his friends while they were socializing in public. Cox said that Shirvell also lied during his disciplinary hearing and posted online attacks while at work.

Who wants to place bets on how long before Peter LaBarbera and company turn Shirvell into the next Poor Carrie Prejean, the national emblem of How the Homo Agenda Persecutes Good Christian Citizens?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

APA Report on the Sexualization of Girls

The American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls has issued a report (PDF) defining sexualization, examining the prevalence of sexualization, evaluating the evidence suggesting sexualization has negative consequences for girls and society, and describing alternatives to counteract the influence of sexualization.

The entire report is worth a read (72 pages), but I've provided some highlights below.

Defining sexualization, the report's introduction aptly summarizes how the sexualization of girls works concurrently with dominant beauty standards for women to further harm girls (and women):

"...[I]n the current environment, teen girls are encouraged to look sexy, yet they know little about what it means to be sexual, to have sexual desires, and to make rational and responsible decisions about pleasure and risk within intimate relationships that acknowledge their own desires.Younger girls imbued with adult sexuality may seem sexually appealing, and this may suggest their sexual availability and status as appropriate sexual objects. Concomitantly, women are often considered sexy only when they appear young, thus blurring the line between who is and is not sexually mature (Cook & Kaiser, 2004)."

I am reminded here of the Glee photo shoot in GQ wherein two adult women portrayed sexually available teenage girls. At once, the images imbued "teenage schoolgirls" with adult sexuality while simultaneously reinforcing the message that adult women are sexiest when they look incredibly young.

Indeed, the report notes how the media contributes to the sexualization of girls:

"On television, young viewers encounter a world that is disproportionately male, especially in youth-oriented programs, and one in which female characters are significantly more likely than male characters to be attractive and provocatively dressed (Eaton, 1997)."

I know, in other news, sky is blue.

Nonetheless, the media saturation of sexualized images of girls and women is an observation that needs to be made in order to make the case that something should be done about it. And, when you read through the report's examples and findings of sexualization, it is infuriating.

It is often said that Women These Days Don't Know How Good They Have It because, I suppose, anti-discrimination laws are now in effect and we therefore live in a post-feminist society. But, despite the appearance of "legal equality," how equal are men and women really when movies, TV, magazines, cartoons, music lyrics, and advertisements send girls (and women) the message our most important feature is our ability to gain the attention and approval of men via our looks?

Isn't it telling that so much appearance-related advice to women is of the How To Lose Weight variety, rather than the How To Be Healthy type? It is society's metaphor for keeping women, and our roles in the world, small. Weightless.

Particularly sad are the findings related to how when girls internalize the idea that they are sex objects leads to feelings of shame, repulsion, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and heightened fear of becoming fat. And, when men are exposed to media that objectifies women, they are more likely to treat women like sexual objects and to view women as less intellectually competent.

The report also proposes a number of ways to counteract some of the negative consequences of the sexualization of girls. As a feminist blogger, I find it somewhat validating that among these tactics are educating girls to view media critically and reaching girls and women through alternative media such as feminist blogs, books, websites, and forums.

So, yeah, fellas, stick that in your Feminists-Should-Stop-Criticizing-Silly-Things-Like-Sexist-TV-Shows pipe and smoke it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Eat

[TW: Eating disorders, fat phobia/hatred]

Yippee, personal anecdote time!

Today, I'm going to talk about food and body image. Two disclaimers. One, I am mostly a n00b when it comes to the emerging movement known as Fat Acceptance, mostly because, as a thin person, I've had the privilege of not having to think much about what it is like to live in a virulently fat-phobic society. For instance, I can clean my plate, part of someone else's, and then order dessert in public and mostly not think twice about how other people might be whispering "no wonder" and, instead, am often treated as though my Healthy Appetite For A Lady is somewhat endearing.

It wasn't until I began reading Shakesville a couple of years ago, and specifically various posts by Melissa McEwan, that I began thinking about the politics of fatness and society's hatred of fat people in any real way. See, for instance, this post and the links and comments therein that speak to the ubiquity and the social acceptability of fat shaming.

Two, I am coming to a growing awareness of how living in a fat phobic society as a thin woman has combined with class considerations to give me a somewhat fucked-up relationship with food and body image. How many of us, no matter our size, feel as though if we're women and we have bodies we can't fucking win? But at the same time, I want to fully acknowledge that, perhaps in a way similar to how patriarchy also hurts men, my experiences with fat phobia, hatred, and body image are qualitatively and quantitatively different than what a fat woman (or man) experiences on a daily basis. I intend no equivalence with this post. Construcitve criticism is welcome.

So, onward.

I am thin. I have always been thin. I don't know how to define "thin" but, if this helps, basically even after puberty I used to look like a 2x4? (Which, of course, can have its own set of body shaming experiences in a society that likes its women Voluptuous But Not Too Voluptuous). Or, and I know the Body Mass Index has shortcomings, I have always fallen into the problematically-named "normal" category of the BMI.

Despite my lifelong thin appearance, it was when I went to college that I learned for the first time in my life that I was fat, actually. Or, rather, that I had a lot of it and was "at risk" for becoming noticeably fat. See, I was an athlete and during our pre-season physicals, which included a body fat measurement, I learned that my body fat percentage was significantly higher than that of all of my teammates despite the fact that all of our bodies looked, on the outside, very similar.

I didn't understand then why my body fat percentage was higher than other people's, but by the raised eyebrows of teammates and coaches regarding my body fat, I do remember feeling as though I had done something very wrong by having this fat. Stereotypes of fat people dancing in my head, I felt ashamed and judged as lazy, undisciplined, and immoral. I also see now that it was a remarkable privilege that it wasn't until I was 18 that this was my first fleeting encounter with fat shame that some people live with every single day of their lives.

So, after the physicals, I was called into my coach's office to have a meeting about my body and all of its (un)apparent fat. After taking an inventory of my typical meals, my coach jokingly asked how I was still alive. For the record, I genuinely thought pop-tarts for breakfast, doritos and a 3 Musketeers for lunch, pizza for dinner, and ice cream for dessert were all totally fine meal options.

It's a cruel irony, no?

Fat people are often lambasted for the inaccurate perception that all they do is scarf down whole cakes all day long (while possibly sitting on their beds alone and feeling sad for themselves), but there I was having actually eaten almost nothing but the nutritional equivalent of chocolate cakes for most of my life while nonetheless appearing skinny and, thus, "healthy." I got a lifelong free fucking pass to eat whatever junk I wanted as long as I stayed skinny while doing so!

Society gave me brownie points for looking thin. But, thanks to my food ignorance and growing up poor, I was malnourished, pre-diabetic (thank you high fructose corn syrup!), and had a fucked-up metabolism.

Prior to college and its wonderful meal cards, food for me was never about quality. When you're poor, you don't have that luxury. Eating, during much of my childhood, was always, always about taking in what I thought would make me full enough until the next meal. When you're a kid, you don't usually have your own money to buy your own food. You don't always want to take the free lunch at school and, sometimes, even your parents are too proud to let you take it. What you eat is whatever your parents put in the cupboards. Then, when you're a teenager working at a fast-food joint, finally earning your own money, you don't go shopping at the Whole Foods that doesn't even exist in your rural town. You eat free french fries at work.

Now, as an adult with a decent income, when I am eating with friends in a restaurant, my heart still sometimes races when someone asks the inevitable "Why don't we just get a bunch of stuff and share it?" Perhaps some of you reading this also hear that warning in the back of your head whispering, "What if I don't get enough?" To some of us, "sharing" is associated with going to bed hungry.

And so, I eat.

I eat and I finish my plate, almost always, because growing up poor means you don't waste food. And yet, when you eat and finish your plate you put yourself at risk for Becoming Fat.

I don't know what combination of genes, environment, or metabolism kept me thin during my young adulthood, but after meeting with my coach in college, I picked up on some subtext. Screw diabetes, if I didn't make big changes to my diet, my sneaky skinny fat would somehow spread to the outside and, thanks to her and so many other societal messages, that would be the Worst Thing Imagineable.

I have been battling different levels of that fear for most of my adult life.

During and immediately after college, I was probably exercise anorexic, which apparently seems to be a real thing. I loved food too much to forego it and so when I ate, which was frequently, I would work out to maintain caloric equilibrium. I would work out. For hours. Despite what I led people to believe, my working out was not mostly for purposes of Being Healthy, but for purposes of Not Getting Fat.

Throughout my life, compulsive exercise has interferred with my education, jobs, relationships, happiness, health, joints, and vacations. Yet, compulsive exercise isn't a typical After School Special topic because the skinny athletic person is Doing Everything Right according to fat-phobic cultural criticism of bodies.

These days, moderation is my mantra, but I will probably always live with some part of me worrying about becoming fat. Haven't we all, to varying degrees, internalized the message that to be fat is to be lazy, immoral, and gross? Doesn't it seem like for fat people, It Doesn't Get Better?

Today, every woman in my life has had at least some degree of a frenemy relationship with food and her body image. I am a Fat Acceptance ally not only because I believe fat people have the same human dignity as thin people, but because challenging narrow cultural standards of beauty effects all of us.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Human" and "Female" as Mutually Exclusive Categories

[TW: Rape, Torture]

"When a woman is tortured in an Argentine prison cell, even as it is forgotten that she is a woman, it is seen that her human rights are violated because what is done to her is also done to men. Her suffering has the dignity, and her death the honor, and her legal status the recognition of a crime against humanity. But when a woman is tortured by her husband in her home, humanity is not seen to be violated. Here she is a woman- only a woman. Internationally, her violation outrages the conscience of few beyond her friends.

Put more schematically, in the perspective of human rights, what is done to women is either too specific to women to be seen as human or too generic to human beings to be seen as about women. Atrocities committed against women are either too female to fit the concept of human or too human to fit the idea of female. "Human" and "female" are mutually exclusive by definition; one cannot be a woman and a human being at the same time. Women's rights are, in other words, not yet human rights, nor are human rights yet women's rights."

-Catherine MacKinnon in "Rape, Genocide, and Women's Human Rights," Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues

Increasingly, LGBT rights are framed as human rights. As they should be. And yet, I wonder, often, how much this narrative has to do with the fact that men are included in the group "LGBT." How different, say, would the "LGBT" rights movement be if it consisted solely of lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender folks? How much less seriously would the movement as a whole be taken? Would hate crimes against LBT women (and transgender men) be too "female" to be recognized as the atrocities that they are?

That hate crimes against women as women occur every day in this nation, pervasively, and commonly and yet are often, rather than being seen as the human rights violations they are, minimized as "domestic disputes" I believe, answers these questions for us.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dona Nobis Pacem

[This post is my contribution to the Blogblast for Peace Day. Cross-posted at Our Big Gayborhood.]

To me, peace means being assertive, that delicate balance between aggression and passivity. It means defending a violent person's encroachment upon our human dignity in a way that causes the least physical, verbal, or emotional harm to the violent person. It means making concessions and genuine apologies when warranted and accepting them when sincerely offered. Peace means being aware of when I am angry, sad, or in pain and trying to transform that energy into something positive and productive.

Peace means trying to live according to these principles and being aware of when I do not live up to them. It means knowing that the opportunity for peace is in very step. And sometimes, the most peaceful gift we can give ourselves is walking away.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bonobo Females Handy With Tools

From Wired:

"A new study of tool use in bonobos suggests females of this great ape species are handier than males.

That’s also been seen in chimpanzees, but it was thought that chimps could be an aberration. Instead, the new study hints suggests that female-driven technological innovation could be the norm in humanity’s closest cousins.

'We think that there is this difference in the Pan genus: Females are better tool users than males' said primatologist Thibaud Gruber of Scotland’s University of St. Andrews.

The researchers followed their observations with a study of 20 captive bonobos at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Once again, they found extensive tool use. But that wasn’t all. 'We found out that bonobo females were much more keen on using different tools for the same task than males,' said Gruber."

Despite these findings, the researchers also observed that female bonobos earned only 70 bananas for every 100 the males earned.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This Week

Hello everyone,

I am going on a gayer than gay gaycation this week. I do have posts lined up for the rest of the week, but I won't be around much to comment, interact, or check my email.

I'd tell everyone to behave in my absence, but fortunately, my blog is not usually inundated with abusive comments anyway.

Besides, this is the internets. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh right, this. See, eg, comments. And also this.


Monday, November 1, 2010

I Bind You, Patriarchy

Hey look, it's the Malleus Maleficarum, the Catholic-priest written handbook that Catholic Inquisitors used to hunt, torture, and murder (mostly female) "witches" in medieval times. (Thanks Gutenberg!).

Of particular interest to my delicately wicked lady brain is the section explaining "why a greater number of witches is found in the fragile feminine sex than among men."

The witchy ways of woman had come about, basically, because according to various holy men, "All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman," beings who are "feebler both in mind and body" than men. And, because it is womankind who comes from the "broken rib" of mankind (as opposed to the biological reality that all humans actually come from female bodies), women are inherently "an imperfect animal" of a "different nature than men."

Thus, not surprisingly:

"What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours!...When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil."

Oh, and natch, a woman is "more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations."

For all of these reasons- stupidity, nagginess, defectiveness, "insatiable" horniness- it was really "no wonder that so great a number of witches exist in this [female] sex."

At this point, I think my feelings can best be expressed by a Whitney gif:


So, um, moving on.

Some historians note that the women most often targeted as "witches" were those living outside of patriarchal norms, such as elderly women and women not living as part of a nuclear family unit. Such women are beings whom patriarchy has no need for. In a society organized around the nuclear family unit in which the man is the head, it was "these women, particularly older women who had never given birth and now were beyond giving birth, [who] comprised the female group most difficult to assimilate."

If a woman exists solely to be a mother and a wife and she is neither of those things, she is nothing but a burden to society. A waste of space in Father's house. A woman taking food from the mouths of real people- men and boys.

With these historical facts in mind, female adherence to the myths of male-female "gender complementarity" and Incredible Inherent Difference becomes somewhat understandable. To some women, the very survival of the female sex depends upon keeping alive the idea that, together, men and women are greater than the sum of their parts. Men and women need each other, some women insist, perhaps hoping in the backs of their minds that their men don't figure out that women need men (not to kill them) just a little bit more than men need them.