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Posts Tagged ‘Heterosexism’

In any given news cycle there is likely to be a story about someone who said something or told some joke that is described as “offending” some persons. Earlier this summer there was the “rape joke” told by Daniel Tosh. This week Pam Palmater wrote about a racist joke in an Royal Canadian Legion newsletter.

Usually after such occasions the person or organization issues an apology “for offendingthe group or individual in question (or in the case Palmater describes, fails to apologize at all since “only one” person was offended).

I'm Sorry

I’m Sorry

In fact, this response is so common that Wikipedia even has an entry on it titled “The Non-Apology.” The Wikipedia article focus mainly on the apology as lacking the requisite contrition or admission that something was wrong. I think that is right, but I also want to focus on something else: the “I’m sorry I offended you” line misses one important target group for the apology.

You see, I am not so worried about those who were “offended.” Sure, it sucks to have to live in a culture that is basically a mine field waiting to explode with “humour” that reinforces one’s lesser status. But at least those who were offended recognize what was wrong with the statement. I am also worried (perhaps more worried) about those who were not offended.  As Palmater writes:

 Racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada is so ingrained that some in society can’t even identify it when they see it. (Source)

Those in the group who were not offended are the ones who really concern me because they are so blind to racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, etc. that they were not even able to be offended by the alleged humour. So in addition to apologizing to those groups who were “offended” by the racist/sexist/etc. “joke” I think there should also be an apology to those who were not offended.

Perhaps something along the lines of:

I am sorry my hackneyed attempt at humour reinforced ideas of racial (gender, class, etc.) superiority among those who were not offended by the alleged “joke.” I am sorry that what I said perpetuated and reinforced your privileged blindness to the racism (sexism, classism, heterosexism, etc.) so prevalent in this society…

Because in addition to hurting those who are offended and reinforcing their lesser status in a given culture, such “jokes” also have the harmful effect of reinforcing arrogance and ignorance among those who failed to see what was wrong with the “offensive” “joke” in the first place.

 

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First Same-Sex Marriage in Toronto on January 14, 2001.

Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa were the first to be married in Toronto at Riverdale’s Metropolitan Community Church on January 14, 2001.

Sometimes debates about marriage equality position the debate as though marriage equality opposed religious freedom. In Canada, however, some churches exercised their religious freedom in order to help usher in equal marriage. The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC Toronto) was one of the first to marry same-sex couples in Ontario. As Wikipedia reports:

On January 14, 2001, [Reverend Brent] Hawkes gained national attention by performing a wedding ceremony for two same-sex couples at the Metropolitan Community Church. Although city clerks would not issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages at this time, Hawkes employed the alternative provided in Ontario law for regular church attendees to publish official banns for three consecutive weeks, and thereby conducted a legal marriage without requiring prior government permission. In the spirit of the banns as a public opportunity for interested parties to raise legal objections, the church also issued a press release in late 2000 announcing its intentions. The government of Jean Chrétien did not endorse the marriages, althoughGovernor-General Adrienne Clarkson sent a personal letter of support. The city clerk refused to register the record of marriage, leading to a court battle. On July 12, 2002, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the marriages performed by Hawkes in January 2001 were legal, but stayed its decision pending a possible appeal, and on June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario affirmed this, and striking down all barriers againstsame-sex marriage in the province, with immediate effect. (From Wikipedia, most links broken by Bakka)

So, religious freedom and marriage equality are not always at odds with one another. Indeed, religious freedom sometimes works in ways that support marriage equality even when the government has not yet moved to support it.

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Today marks the six-year anniversary of equal marriage in Canada on July 20, 2005 (although it is important to note that same-sex marriage was already legal in most of the provinces and one territory before that). Since the passage of Bill C-38, which legalized same-sex marriage in Canada, there has been no negative effects on heterosexual marriage or the rest of Canadian society:

Nobody has married their car, their tree or their favourite living room chair. No priest has been forced to marry same-sex couples. No pedophiles have married children….

Nor has gay marriage undermined straight marriage…

In fact, according to the article linked above, divorce rates have fallen in Canada. Further, our economy has not crumbled. Things are going pretty well here.

Last year I posted a video by Grimace in which he interviewed Canadians about how the legalization of same-sex marriage changed the life of Canadians. Even those who were opposed to equal marriage said the law had not changed their life (though I assume that is more true for heterosexuals than for homosexuals). Here is another video (an old one from 2006) where Grimace interviews Canadians about whether they would like to reopen the equal marriage debate. Among those interviewed, most seem to think the issue is settled and equal marriage should remain the norm for Canada since “we can’t pick and choose rights.”

Canadians seem satisfied with the current state of affairs, and there have been no negative effects on Canadian society. So yippee for same-sex marriage in Canada.

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[Trigger Warning for non-consensual touching]

Normally I enjoy reading the Oatmeal, but this recent comic is full of problems.

The Oatmeal: Minor Differences: Part 2

"Minor Differences: Part 2" In the first panel we se a man hugging his "ladyfriend." She responds warmly. In the second panel, we see a man hugging his "manfriend." The man responds in shock and horror.

So, first of all the joke of the comic obviously relies on homophobia and assumed heterosexuality for it to be funny. We are supposed to realize that no heterosexual man would approach another man in this way.

It assumes heterosexuality because I would wager that homosexual male couples do approach each other in this way, and get the reaction the “ladyfriend” is giving in this comic (the only person whom I would allow to hug me from behind is my partner).

But the comic is also an assertion of male power over women. One of the manifestations of power is being able to access others in a variety of ways. Marilyn Frye writes in the chapter “Some Reflections on Separatism and Power” from The Politics of Reality:

Differences of power are always manifested in asymmetrical access… Total power is unconditional access; total powerlessness is being unconditionally accessible. The creation and manipulation of power is constituted of the manipulation and control of access.

Frye provides a number of examples of how power allows differential access, and we can think about how different kinds of power grant different kinds of access. For example, in business environments bosses have access to employee emails and can track employee activity online whereas employees do not have similar access to their bosses’ use of the internet.

In this comic, we see that the man has access to a woman physically and he expects her to react in a welcoming manner. When he tries the same method of gaining access to a man, however, he does not expect a warm welcoming reaction. So the man expects to have access to his “ladyfriends” in a way he does not expect to have access to his “manfriends.”

This is actually really troubling. There are many reasons that a person might not want to be “surprised” with “a hug from behind.” For many rape or assault survivors this could be really triggering. Even for those who have not experienced an assault, but nevertheless fear one, it could also be traumatic. Furthermore, reaching around to hug someone from behind puts the onus on them to reject your advances rather than taking on the responsibility of seeking consent to the activity.

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On Monday, I wrote about the Bill C-389 that was voted on in the House of Commons yesterday. I am happy to report that the Bill passed the house (Yeas: 143; Nays 135). The transcript of Monday’s debate can be read in full here.

As it was with the last debate, the MPs focused on the definition of the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression,” questions about whether this discrimination is already covered, and some MPs dispelled myths about the proposed changes. The Bill is not yet Canadian law, it still has to pass the Senate. Dented Blue Mercedes has an excellent summary of this reading and passing of Bill C-389.

Of course, there are still opponents of the Bill. The Toronto Sun has an article by Brian Lilly, in which he claims that the Bill opposes equality. I want to offer some brief comments on what I believe are some mischaracterizations in Lilly’s argument. Lilly writes:

The idea is to give greater protection to transgendered and transsexual citizens.

Whatever happened to the idea that all are equal before the law?

A true equality, one in the best Canadian tradition, would simply state that all people are created equal and should be treated equally before the law.

It would do away with all those special privileges and would re-establish a unique standard for all Canadians.

Somehow, this is a radical idea these days.

Lilly worries that the bill gives “special rights” to certain groups on the basis of their group identity. According to Lilly, it would be more equal to simply say that all are equal before the law, and leave it at that. Identifying certain groups as ones that cannot be discriminated against is problematic, according to Lilly, because this creates “special” groups who have “special” rights that others do not have.

I think Lilly’s analysis is mistaken for at least two reasons. First, he confuses distinctions between kinds of discrimination and distinctions between kinds of persons. Second, he fails to note that the relevant distinction is between legitimate and illegitimate forms of discrimination, and that once this distinction is made it applies equally to all Canadians.

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This will be just a quick posts with some links to further reading.

Recently, the groups The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) released a survey “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey” about discrimination based on gender identity and expression in the United States. The Report abstract states:

Transgender and gender non-conforming people face rampant discrimination in every area of life: education, employment, family life, public accommodations, housing, health, police and jails, and ID documents…

Questioning Transphobia summarizes some of the findings:

  • Respondents were four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with incomes lower than $10,000
  • Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed
  • One in four reported being fired for their gender identity or expression
  • Half said they experienced harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace
  • One in five said they experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression
  • 19% said they had been refused a home or apartment
  • 19% said they had been refused health care
  • 31% reported harassment or bullying by teachers
  • 41% reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% for the general population

Similar statistics about discrimination apply to Canadians.

As Jill from Feministe writes:

Much of this discrimination, it’s worth noting, is entirely legal. Trans people are routinely left of out anti-discrimination laws that protect citizens from discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, nationality, etc.

In Canada, we have a chance to correct this problem. Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression), is up for a vote in the House of Commons. The last vote was really close, passing by only 12 votes (Yeas: 143; Nays 131).

Bill C-389 is coming up for a final vote this Wednesday, February 9th. This time opponents of the bill have organized a letter-writing campaign to petition MPs to vote against the bill.

If you want to support the bill to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, there is an online letter writing campaign organized by the Public Service Alliance of Canada. If any readers are from Canada and wish to support the bill, please consider sending a letter to your MP from the link above.

I will include links for further reading below the fold.

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Two women are married as the snow flies around them.

Last night I watched the documentary, Escape to Canada, about “2003 when by apparent coincidence, gay marriage is legalized and the prohibition of marijuana is removed on the same day.” While watching this film, I noticed several instances of the argument that is the title of this post. Canadians interviewed for the film argued that they wanted to be free and part of what freedom meant to them was the ability to pay their taxes (examples below the fold).

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