Tension in Turkey

30 07 2008

I still have a great big pile of blog posts and news clips to blog about, which I’ve finally organized into posts based on topic, but since my week is a little crazy, I’d just like to make a little off-the-cuff comment about what’s going on in Turkey.  For those of you who don’t know, the highest court in Turkey ruled today not to allow a ban on the ruling party but instead to cut its state funding in half for trying to impose Islam on the secular nation.

When the news was first coming out about the headscarf issue, I found it very interesting to hear the perspective of my Turkish teacher, Bahar, who like many women in Turkey is Muslim but believes strongly in the secular state.  The way she described it, secularism is the most fundamental principal of the Turkish state and thus allowing women to wear headscarves in school would be a threat to the state’s historical foundations and its values.  In other words, there is a huge fear of the slippery slope.

I have trouble deciding where I stand on this – not that it really matters, as I’m not Turkish, but I still tend to have an opinion on foreign politics.  On the one hand, I see her arguments, especially in light of what has happened in neighboring states and considering Turkey’s position and reputation as a unique secular, modern, democratic state whose population is mostly Muslim.  On the other hand, I grew up in the US where freedom of religion is heavily valued, and it seems strange to me that someone would ban a political party based on its religious ties – not all that democratic, I would think.  It will be interesting to see how all this plays out, in any event.

I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It

29 07 2008

So to be fair, most of the lesbians I’ve seen referring to this songs on their blog do so either sarcastically or at least in a mildly disapproving tone.  But, that said, I’m a little annoyed at the bloggers who have heralded this song as some sort of a grand gesture or a sign that our culture has embraced homosexuality and doesn’t need legal change as a result.  Okay, that particular reaction was only one blogger:

Anyway, for the record, I’m not turned on at all by the prospect of two girls making out–it’s not my scene–but I do love the fact that this is a big hit among teens, those voters-in-waiting. There is a reason for the generation gap in attitudes about same-sex marriage and LGBT rights: culture. Which is all a way of saying that “I Kissed a Girl” has gotten me thinking, yet again, about the intersection between law, culture, and norms. Can the law ever really change norms in a positive way? And if we were to compare their impact, can we really say that Lawrence v. Texas (outlawing the criminalization of same-sex sex), or Goodridge v. Dept of Public Health or In re Marriage Cases (Lockyer) (finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and California) have had more of an impact on the everyday lives of LGBT folks (their interaction with employers, co-workers, relatives, neighbors, etc.) than Will & Grace, Ellen, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and “I Kissed a Girl”?

What?  WHAT?

Oh God, I hope thats sarcasm.  I don’t really think he thinks that pop culture makes legal change unnecessary, but I do think he views it as a positive step and a sign that young people accept homosexuality.  Uh.

No, see, what it’s saying is that women can feel free to be “edgy” and “controversial” by making out with another woman when they’re drunk.  “I hope my boyfriend doesn’t mind it,” tee hee, watch me be my own woman.  I’m not saying that women shouldn’t experiment (though I stay far, far away from those who do) and I’m not saying that there’s necessarily anything wrong with straight girls kissing other straight girls or queer girls.  What’s wrong is confusing this with acceptance of queer culture.  There’s nothing queer about this situation.  It’s only a baby step away from the traditional woman-as-object using lesbianism to titilate the men bit.  Yes, Perry indicates that the subject in her song is doing something that her boyfriend doesn’t know about, but it’s still all about the boyfriend.  It’s still clearly a straight woman experimenting.  This has zippo to do with lesbian culture or lesbian acceptance.

Case in point?  Let’s come up with a new song, “I Kissed a Boy,” by I don’t know, Justin Timberlake or someone.  I don’t think it’d get the same popular reaction.  The fact is, girls kissing is not seen as threatening to heteronormativity.  This doesn’t mean that the country is ready to give lesbians rights.  This doesn’t mean that if we take the kissing girls out of the structure Perry is using and put them in a long-term relationship that society will support them.  

Ironically enough, this song came on in a bar Saturday night (why I never go to undergrad bars unless forced) while several men were trying very desperately to grope and/or rub against my ass.  I decided to change the lyrics to “I fucked a girl and I like it – I think my girlfriend liked it, too.”  I doubt it’ll catch on.

Mama Mia!

23 07 2008

I’d seen the trailer about a hundred times, as it’s the default load for AfterEllen video blogs, but I figured I probably wouldn’t see the movie.  As much as I love musicals and as huge a crush as I have on Meryl Streep, I just don’t have easy access to a movie theatre.  However, yesterday my friend Rita and I were hanging out at the Johnson County fair after my shift tabling for the clinic and we got the idea to go see a movie.  Apparently movies cost eight fifty now, which made my wallet cry a little, but it was a lot of fun.  It’s as feel-good as you would expect, with enough irreverence to excuse watching a chick flick, and Meryl is as always gorgeous and amazing in it.  I also thought the three men did a great job, and I giggled just a little seeing Dakin from History Boys in such a straight role.  Meryl’s performance of “The Winner Takes it All” was by far the best number, though the three women doing “Dancing Queen” (the first time) is hillarious.  I also thought Pierce Brosnan wasn’t bad with his musical numbers – not the best voice I’ve ever heard, but not bad either.  And of course, you can’t fault a PG-13 movie that puts a positive spin on sex and acceptance of women who have multiple partners.  Whoo!

When consent fails

20 07 2008

As you know if you read this blog, I’ve been doing research on sadomasochism and consent, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the law is bordering on pathology in its obsession with protecting masculine subjectivity, while using the other hand to perpetuate feminine objectivity just as much as it damned well pleases.  

Case in point: I read a law review article arguing that Laskey, the European Court of Human Rights case where prosecution of several homosexual men who were practising consensual sadomasochistic sex was upheld on the basis of public morality, was all about protecting the masculinity of the male “victim” by not even allowing him to consent.  This makes a lot of sense to me.  Ideally, what we want is a system of informed consent, where yes means yes and no means no.  What we get is, on the one hand, the legal system refusing to let men say yes to erotic pain in order to “protect” them, and on the flip side, refusing to acknowledge women who say no to date rape because they “accepted a risk” – ignoring the fact that true informed consent means they accepted the risk of what actually happened, not just the risk that consensual sex might occur.  Consent, essentially, doesn’t mean anything in the legal system – it’s just another tool of sexism.  Grand.

Half-naked fifteen year olds, clearly what we need

19 07 2008

Today’s sexism in the media rant focuses on a disturbing trend of sexualizing children.  Now I admit I have some somewhat old fogie-esque views on this topic, because I think the longer people wait to have sex, in most cases, the better.  As much as I embrace sexual freedom in some ways, and am uncomfortable saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to have sex if you’re under eighteen (and definitely don’t think we should demonize those that do), it bothers me that children and young teenagers are having sex.  Maybe this is part of my middle-class privilege, in that I was “protected” from that in ways (and also just exempted by the fortunate fact that I was not a gorgeous fifteen-year-old), but it creeps me out when I see children marketed as sex objects.

Feministing recently posted two examples, here and here.  The poster’s focus in showing the first ad, a creepy television spot demonstrating how a new cell phone can be used for stalking your sleeping neighbor, was that stalking/objectification is wrong.  The poster’s focus in the second ad, a BMW magazine spread, is again the objectification of the woman pictured.  Both perfectly good points, but I was surprised that neither poster noted that the “women” shown are teenaged girls.  The actresses themselves may be eighteen, but I would pin them both in the 12-15 age range.  What creeps me out is not only that we’re objectifying women, but that we’re objectifying kids, more or less.  Especially in the second ad, the whole “yeah, you know she’s not a virgin” message nearly made my mouth drop open.  Sure, in today’s culture perhaps it’s not inaccurate to assume that a teenager or preteen has probably been abused in the past, but should we be celebrating it?

What are the acceptable limits of consent?

17 07 2008

Consent is something that we obviously value very greatly in modern Western society.  Consent is often the difference between a crime and an unpunishable act.  In the realm of sexual acts, consent (sometimes) is what makes activity acceptable to the law.  When we talk about sodomy laws, we frequently repeat the phrase “consenting adults.”  These are consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom, therefore the state shouldn’t interfere.  Consent is one way to mark a line between activity protected by the right to privacy and activity into which interference by the criminal system is justified.  If there isn’t consent, then at least one of the parties’ privacy rights – or more broadly, right to individual autonomy – is not being respected.  Autonomy is to right to do as we will with our own lives, as bodily integrity is the right to do as we will with our bodies.  When these rights are breached, the other party can no longer say that he or she was justified by autonomy – the limit to autonomy is where it interferes with someone else’s.

Of course, this is all well and good, and as a general rule I agree to consent as the line we should use.  I don’t think, for example, that the government should interfere due to some overriding “public interest” when consenting adults participate in sadomasochistic activities.  I don’t believe that the public morality, when people are having sex in private, all consenting, and therefore not harming anyone else’s autonomy, can override the autonomy interests of the participants.  But that said, I found an interesting paradox in an essay I was reading for a paper I’m writing on sexual autonomy.  The author gave the example of two gay men kissing in the street.  The men argue that they have an autonomy interest in being able to express themselves affectionately – and indeed, autonomy goes behind a mere geographic sense of “privacy,” so that the interest exists on a public street as much as in a private home.  But then some bystander argues that her autonomy interest is being violated because she doesn’t want to see men kissing.  Where do we draw a line?  If autonomy only goes so far as the limits of others’ autonomy, then they men shouldn’t be able to kiss – but do we want to go this far?  I certainly don’t.  Does everyone in the neighborhood have to consent, or only the “reasonable” ones?  What is reasonable?  A member of the moral majority?  An interesting paradox.

File this under “no such thing as bad publicity”

11 07 2008

I wrote a very brief article today on Obama and McCain’s stances on LGBT issues, just a quick highlight of their positions on a few of the major questions.  It’s easily my quickest-to-gain-popularity article on Suite101, but the funny thing is that I’m getting several people coming from a website called savecalifornia.com, which is apparently a site in favor of the marriage amendment there.  A link to my article is prominently placed in the center of the page, labelled “Their positions on the ‘LGBT’ agenda.”  Wow, I never thought I’d get scare quoted!  What an honor!