A Survey for Women

Noble Savage tipped me off to this survey for women about feminism, marriage and motherhood. The survey is being conducted by the University of Mary Washington Mothering Study. Here is the researchers’ statement:

“We are studying the relationship between feminism and mothering. There has been a historical tension between the feminist movement and mothers. Some have accused feminists of ruining the family by encouraging women to move into the workplace, obtain legal abortions, and less commonly serve as primary caregivers. On the other hand, feminists have also advocated for affordable high quality childcare and have been very involved in women’s health issues including childbirth and breastfeeding. Some branches of feminism especially value motherhood. Little research has been conducted on whether feminists are more or less likely to desire motherhood, the ways in which feminists may be different from non-feminists in how they approach motherhood, and how people (both feminists and non-feminists) perceive feminist mothers. We hope to contribute to this literature.”

I enjoyed taking the survey because it really made me think. It isn’t long–15 to 30 minutes.

Tuesday Tidbits

Misogyny, Up Close and Personal” by Melissa McEwan in the guardian.co.uk. How we can love men while not liking everything they do.

Marcella Chester’s blog about being a rape survivor:  “Abyss2hope.” This particular article is about the incidence of sexual abuse among boys and girls.  Also check out her website, “Date Rape is Real Rape.”

Bitch Magazine blog post by Mandy Van Deven about the classist, sexist, racist, homophobic and just plain mean blog, People of WalMart. (I could find the Facebook page for PeopleofWalmart, but not the website.)

Feminists Naomi Wolfe and Phyllis Chesler “face off over the veil” at Salon Broadsheet. This one’s especially interesting to me because like Wolfe, I defend any woman’s right to wear a headcovering, but I identify with Chesler’s views since I am also a Second-Waver. Read the article by Wolfe that started the debate:  “Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality.”

Hate Crimes Legislation Debate

Jos, on Feministing, is against hate crimes legislation for several reasons, one being:

“Hate crimes legislation puts the power to bring and pursue such charges in the hands of a law enforcement and criminal justice system that disproportionately targets marginalized communities. As a result, hate crime charges are brought against black folks for allegedly targeting white folks and against queer folks for allegedly targeting straight folks. In fact, as the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) points out in their non-endorsement of GENDA, so called anti-white hate crimes constitute the second highest amount reported by the FBI. Self defense in the face of a racist, homophobic or transphobic attack can equal a harsher sentence for the person being attacked in the first place.”

Read entire post here.

The SRLP’s statement includes their assertion that “[hate crimes legislation] encourage[s] us to lay blame and focus our vengeful hostility on one person instead of paying attention to institutional prejudice that fuels police violence, encourages bureaucratic systems to ignore trans people’s needs or actively discriminate against us, and denies our communities health care, identification, and so much more.”

The SRLP’s interpretation of the FBI statistics is misleading. Anti-white crimes may be the second most numerous type of hate crime based on race, but they still only constitute 18.3% compared to the 69.3% of the race crimes that are anti-black. Big difference. Also, the FBI statistics don’t even include a separate category for transgendered individuals.

Jos’ objection, “the fact that hate crime legislation does not have any quantifiable positive impact makes it a very poor reason to go against my larger belief about prisons” is a legitimate one. But I don’t understand a view that is willing to let hate crime perpetrators off the hook. Ideally, laws reflect the values of a society but sometimes they help to bring about change in those values. Hate crime legislation is both. There are still a lot of people in this society who think it is all right to commit crimes against persons and property base on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/nationality and disability. They need to be shown in no uncertain terms that our society will not stand for that behavior.

Meanwhile, I agree that other means to change people’s attitudes should be employed. But that kind of change can be slow in coming. Jos’ assertion that “harsher sentencing does not decrease the amount of hate crimes being committed” may be true, but not making laws against them implies a tolerance that our society cannot afford to exhibit.

The Matthew Shepard Act that is now going through Congress is an example of the attempt to tighten hate crimes laws. It seeks to achieve three objectives:

1) Expand the law to authorize the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Current law only includes race, color, religion or national origin.

2) Eliminate a serious limitation on federal involvment under existing law which requires that a victim of a bias-motivated crime was attacked because he/she was engaged in a specified federally-protected activity such as voting, serving on a jury or attending school.

3) Add “gender” and “gender identity” to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act*

This does not seem to be too much to ask.

*Source: Matthew Shepard Foundation

Held to the Same Standards

Martina NavratilovaReuters/Mihai Barbu

In the past week, Martina Navratilova has been sued by a former lover, Toni Layton, for millions of dollars in damages and spousal support. Navratilova’s defense hinges on whether or not she can convince the court that her and Layton’s relationship isn’t bound by the same standards as heterosexual marriage.

Layton and Navratilova were never legally married (they did “marry” in an unofficial ceremony in New Hampshire, but then moved to Florida which does not recognize same-sex unions) but they did live together for eight years and shared assets and property. If this had been a legal marriage, there is no question that Layton would be awarded some of those assets and quite possibly spousal support as well.

One reason why I think gay marriage will eventually become legal is so that gay relationships can be held to the same standards as heterosexual ones. Divorces can be as messy as lawsuits but they don’t usually involve the collection of damages.  As it stands now, both parties are vulnerable and neither is protected. As long as the law has different standards for same-sex relationships, these cases will inevitably be settled haphazardly. The legal system doesn’t take kindly to such inconsistencies.

The same sort of dynamic is present in custody suits between same-sex parents. (See my post, “[intlink id=”custody-fights-between-lesbian-partners” type=”post”]Custody Fights Between Lesbian Parents[/intlink].”) Just by being required to handle such cases, the courts are falling back on the marriage model to help them decide their outcomes. And the more often this happens the more likely it is that legal precedent will pave the way for gay marriage, if only to keep things tidy.

Louis Bayard of Salon.com writes that ” Martina Navratilova can no longer cast herself as an apostle for gay rights while using a homophobic legal code to deny her ex-partners alimony [Yes, this has happened before–see article link at top of post]. This is more than bad behavior, it is bad precedent.”  Layton herself is quoted as saying, “‘If I was a man, married or not, I’d be entitled to half of everything that she earned during those years together. But because I’m a woman, it seems, rather conveniently, she believes I’m entitled to next to nothing.”

Navratilova–and the rest of the gay community–needs to wake up: if they continue to press for equal rights (and I am totally behind their doing so) then they better prepare themselves for the equal responsibilities as well.