September 27, 2013

Queer Issue: A Really Bad, No Good Idea For a Sociological Experiment on Street Harassment

Over on The Bilerico project, there is a newish post entitled "How To Cat Call Appropriately" on the issue of street harrasment that is frequently faced by women.

One of the commentators (and I might point out this is kind of a predictable response) asked (and I'm paraphrasing) "But what if I just tell her she's pretty and ask her for her number?"

Well, okay let's put the shoe on the other foot. Let's consider a sociological experiment. what if the situation were different? What if it was men who had people coming up to them, telling them they were handsome or good looking, and oh by the way, what's their number?

If women were to go around asking men for their numbers, I have honestly have no idea how it would go. It might be viewed as an impropriety but I am not sure that *most* men would react negatively. Some might be annoyed but others might like it, and at the end of the idea I really have no idea what would go on.

Now, to make this a really fun experiment, what if gay men were to go around in a public space and tell men how sexy/hot/handsome they were, and what their phone number was?

First, we would probably need to wear full body armor to have any hope of maintaining physical safety.

Second, there would be a very real chance of us being arrested for soliciting sex in public. I am not making this up. There's plenty of examples of this happening, even in recent years, of gay men being arrested for public solicitation.

Do I even need to point out that this is certainly a case of how society can enforce rules differently when it comes to minority status.

For extra fun, consider what would happen if the "hey sexy man, can I have your number" solicitor (male, female, or otherwise) fell into any of the following identity categories (or was a part of multiple categories):
-Was visibly disabled
-Was a non-passing transgender, transexual, or otherwise presented outside the gender binary
-Was a person of color
-Was fat
-Was 65 plus and asking males 20-30 years old

I bring up these identities, not because I think that these necessarily should be considered less attractive then what society conditions people into thinking what should be attractive, but because I am willing to gamble that most men, thanks to said social conditioning, would be less receptive in general to being solicited by those in the above categories. Which in turn means that they might get a better idea of why street harassment is such a horrible practice.

That said, there are plenty of men out there who would appreciate being approached by any of the above, but that still wouldn't make it right. Just because some of the mud that you fling at people sticks, does not make mud flinging at people okay.

For further reading:
PSA: Dear Street Harassers by Foz Meadows.

September 21, 2013

Calling the Poor and Unemployed "Lazy" is Lazy Rhetoric (and Wrong Too)

Sometimes I have little epiphanies about fairly broad subjects. Today, I had one about the increasing volume regarding the rhetoric that the poor and unemployed citizens are "lazy". Not worth going into details why this rhetoric is so overwhelming right now (see: recession and trying to get rid of foodstamps or something) but needless to say, it exists.

However, while I can only speak about my own experiences, I feel like pointing out that not all unemployed people are lazy (this goes without saying, right?) but that furthermore, being unemployed does not automatically mean that one is not actually a productive member of society.

Since graduating from SUNY Oneonta back in 2009, I have yet to find full time employment. So you'll excuse me while I go into Sir BragsALot mode, but I'd like to use myself as an example to start out:
-While I was a student at SUNY Oneonta, I was credited with completing 750.25 volunteer hours of community service. My volunteer work included working on the SUNY Oneonta Undergraduate Philosophy Conference, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (which I also served on the Advisory Committee of after I graduated), and the Student Association Supreme Court, among other organizations.

-While I was still living in Oneonta, I also volunteered at a local emergency room and as an EMT for a volunteer fire department.

-Currently, while I am also doing coursework towards a possible Criminology degree at Wilkes-University, I am also doing an unpaid internship with a local law enforcement agency in Wilkes-Barre. While most of the time I am observing court cases, I have also done clerical work as well.

-For the past three years, I have been writing reviews of LGBTQ related films and now have an archive with more than 100 film reviews that I can call my own. While this arguably has little objective value, I do like to think that these reviews have added to a general understanding of queer cinema.

-On top of all of this, I also work out on regularly on a daily basis in the hopes of pursueing a career in either law enforcement or emergency medicine.

-Most recently, I am now volunteering as a researcher for the Quist, an iOS/Android LGBTQ/Queer history app.

Perhaps this is the height of arrogance, but I would like to think that thanks to my history of volunteering and educational pursuits, that I am not only the opposite of lazy, but that I just might be able to call myself a productive member of society. I just happen to not have been able to turn my productivity into a steady paycheck, yet. I cannot imagine that I am the only person who is unemployed and has spent many hours volunteering in an effort to make the kinds of connections that will lead to a paid position.

Of course there is the possibility that I am some kind of special case and the ranks of the unemployed are filled to the brimming with the lazy and unmotivated. Perhaps, but consider the fact that historically speaking, military veterans have generally faced unemployment rates much higher than the non-veteran population.

Call me perverse, but I look forward to the day when the same politicians who argue that the unemployed are the unmotivated scourge of society, go on national TV and argue that members of the U.S. Military have a poor work ethic.

This is all before we get into how privilege and minority status affects how readily one can find employment. One of the most frustrating aspects of an economics class I took this summer, was the circular reasoning that was taken by one of the required texts regarding this phenomenon. People of color are more like to be unemployed because they are less "productive" workers and the reason they are less productive is because they are less educated then white folks. Do I need to point out the not so minor issue with that argument, even if we accept as true? Like oh I dunno, that racism just might create a barrier to higher education for people of color?

Then there was the argument from the same text about the reason a pay gap exists between men and women. Which is apparently because women are also less productive. Now one reason for the productivity disparity was because women are less likely to pursue higher paying careers in traditionally male dominated fields. The possibility that women were less likely to pursue careers in male dominated fields because of sexist social conditioning never crossed the authors minds. They also attempted to use the "mommie factor" (that is women taking time off of work to raise kids) as another reason women are less productive than men. I will simply point out that this is a sexist argument in of itself, as it immediately dismisses the bearing and raising of kids as not being a form of productivity.

Continueing in this vain but did you know that sending out a "gay resume" means you're less likely to get called by an interested employer? Oddly enough, the same holds true for resumes with "African-American sounding" names. If this is true, we must assume then that your name or sexual orientation must be a reliable indicator to an employer of ones work ethic. Because otherwise things like racism and homophobia actually exist and admitting they exist is so very, very hard.

I do not wish to promote the idea here that one's ultimate worth as a human being is somehow tied up in ones employment status or any such nonsense. I just want to say that ultimately, what's really truly lazy is painting an entire population with the same brush. There is no effort required when it comes to promoting stereotypes.

Further Reading:
National Statistics on Transgender Unemployment - Transgender Workplace Diversity
My Name Is Jason, I’m A 35-Yr-Old White Male Combat Veteran…And I’m On Food Stamps
Homeless Veterans, By The Numbers - Thinkprogress

September 16, 2013

Queer Issue: Alan Turing Was a Genius Who Had a Lady Friend

I came across this article on Movie Scope today onThe Imitation Game about the life of Alan Turing, the openly gay man who cracked NAZI codes, saved thousands of lives, shortened WWII, on his way to becoming the father of computer science.

I have no idea how the movie intends to portray Turing (and frankly do not have the time to do the research) but there were a few details that jumped out at me. For starters the article points out that Kiera Knightly will play Alan Turing's "lady friend". That's nice, given that Turing was GAY, I'm sure there are plenty of ladies out there who enjoyed coordinating accessories with him. I mean, that is what gay men and ladies do together, right? Certainly, they could not just be co-workers and Knightly is simply Turing's friend (why does the term 'lady' even need to be there?) This is a movie after all, certainly the male lead is just absolutely, going to have to have fall in love with his lady friend, right?

Oh wait, Turing was GAY? But the article does not mention that at all, just that he was a victim or something of a close minded government.

I mean honestly, if someone did not know Turing was gay, they might very easily come away with impression that Turing is going to hook up with his lady friend from this article.

September 14, 2013

Queer Issue: Sex Evil! Violence Good!

Alright, it's no secret that violence is practically worshiped in our culture, while anything related to sex or sexuality is shunned.

However, a thousand bucks for the person who can find a more extreme example of this, than the poster I came across today while doing research for an article an transgender serial killers:

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde Poster at Wikipedia

Note how "...victim after victim dies horribly in throat cutting orgy" is an unambiguous selling point, while the idea of seeing someone transform between genders is presented as a warning label.

Actually, it is still a selling point in it's own reverse psychology sort of fashion, but I should point out that the message here still revolves around the idea that changing one's physical sex is somehow shocking and grotesque, as opposed to, I dunno, a medical procedure with no more sociological significance than having one's tonsils or wisdom teeth removed.

That is, one is supposed to find the idea of changing one's sex extremely revolting and shocking, and since that is the reason for seeing most horror films, it becomes the main selling point,

I should probably also point out that this attitude was also shown during the scenes if The Christine Jorgensen Story so was certainly not uncommon during this time, although that goes without saying.