Jill Filipovic

Pope Blesses Backer of Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill

You heard that right. Pope Benedict XVI met with Rebecca Kadaga, the Ugandan Speaker of the House, and gave her a blessing.

Uganda has been a target for western evangelicals who see that they’re losing the gay marriage battle in their own countries. Religious leaders and rightwing groups, including Rick Warren and the National Organization for Marriage, have gone to Uganda for years to spread anti-gay propaganda and bolster homophobia. These religious leaders position themselves as experts, telling Ugandans that gay people sodomize children, spread Aids, destroy marriage, break up families and pose an imminent threat to society—and then they feign shock when Ugandan leaders decide that the legal punishment most befitting these child-raping, society-crushing individuals is death.

In the meantime, gay, lesbian and transgender Ugandans face vigilante attacks daily, and are routinely raped, beaten, ostracized, tortured and murdered.

Do I have any Roman Catholic readers? If so, I encourage you to read Jill Filipovic’s whole piece here about the Church’s patriarchy problem. Even adjusting for her disinterest in the Bible’s take on ethics, doesn’t it seem like Filipovic has a number of solid points that Vatican leaders should really be considering?

Why the "Nice Guys Commit Rape Too" Conversation Is Not Helpful

Jill Filipovic of Feministe—writing this time at The Guardian—brings the story of The Good Men Project’s recent unfortunate posts about rape culture into the mainstream with a relatively balanced, unassuming explanation of what, exactly, The Good Men Project is getting wrong:

We actually know quite a bit about why men rape, and especially about the kinds of rapes that the media often calls “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”—rapes where the perpetrator knew the victim, or at least ran in the same social circles. Academics, researchers and sociologists have done in-depth studies on sexual assault and found that it’s actually a small number of men who commit large numbers of acquaintance rapes. Most of those men intentionally target intoxicated women. They socially isolate them, ply them with alcohol to incapacitate them and intentionally push their boundaries to make them vulnerable.

These repeat rapists are more likely to have rigid views of gender roles and are more angry at women than the non-rapist men. They perpetrate their crimes intentionally, but use our social narratives about rape to avoid prosecution.

So, in general, nice guys are much less likely to commit rape. This does not mean that our society is conducting a constructive conversation on the subject of rape culture; our error, though, seems on the whole to be in thinking that unknown predators attack women in dark alleys. But clarifying that most raped women know their rapists personally does not indicate that those rapists are totally normal men who just “made a mistake” or “didn’t realize what they were doing”.

I particularly encourage you to click through to the link in the quote above for more information and statistics.

Kids, Mental Illness and Violence

In light of the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Jill Filipovic urges us to be careful when parsing these issues:

The terrifying truth is that sometimes, there is no easy “cure” for the mental illnesses that mean a lack of empathy and a propensity toward violence. What’s needed is ongoing treatment and enormous social support for people who are ill, because there’s often not one pill you can take to simply cure a complex problem. This mother, for example, writes about a son who has violent outbursts and who she seems to believe is actually capable of killing her. He’s 13. There aren’t many options for him—the best a social worker can offer is to get him convicted of a crime so that he’s in “the system.” But it’s pretty clear that “the system” is not a good place for mentally ill children (or mentally ill adults). At the same time, this boy is a physical threat not just to his mother, but to his siblings and the people he encounters every day. What it sounds like he needs is ongoing, regular mental health care and therapy in addition to medication (if they can ever find one that works). And he’s not the only one — as Feministe friend Kate Harding also pointed out, there are kids who fit the profile of psychopathy, whose treatment options are less than clear-cut.

I can certainly attest to this, having worked with several young men who clearly needed to be in more acute care than a group home but whose case workers or probation officers seemed to have no better solutions to offer them.

Nice, Horrible Monsters

Trigger Warning for Rape

Amelia McDonell-Parry responds to this post about rape by Alyssa Royse at The Good Men Project:

Royse goes on to emphasize multiple times throughout the piece that this friend of hers did rape this woman. She does not deny he is a rapist. However, many who have read this piece have a hard time with this being an example of a “nice guy” who “accidentally” commits rape, as there was no confusion or misread signals as to whether this woman wanted to have sex. She was asleep. She could not give consent. Period. “Nice guys” don’t stick their dicks in sleeping women.

Jill Filipovic of Feministe doesn’t want to let Royse off the hook so easily:

Even though Royse says this was rape and rape is wrong, her piece is rape apology. Because she uses the same narratives and excuses that rapists have always used to get away with raping. She says she wants to talk about our culture and how it enables rape, but then she uses the exact same cultural memes to act like rape is at all fuzzy, and rapists don’t actually know exactly what they’re doing.

Personally, I think Royse was trying to start a conversation about how even otherwise “nice” people, who don’t think of themselves as horrible people, can still do horrible things like rape. She got sidetracked, instead, into blaming “culture”, which ultimately boils down to—at best—blaming no one, and—at worst—blaming the victim. Muddled thinking and poorly-thought-out writing ended up conveying a message I have a feeling she didn’t intend to convey.

The good point I think we should draw from this episode—since “The Good Men Project Sucks” is not a real point—is that painting all rapists as horrible monsters hurts the attempt to combat rape culture. Some rapists are not (otherwise) horrible monsters, so people—including the rapists themselves—assume they can’t be real rapists. But they are.

If we want people to become more self-aware about obtaining consent for sex, we need to help them realize that even though they are not horrible monsters, they could still rape someone. Our message should not be: “Don’t be a horrible monster who rapes people”, but “Don’t rape people.”

Focusing on bad actions instead of bad character is usually more likely to produce change.

James Bond and the New Sex Appeal

Where “New” means “same old”. Richard Cohen of The Washington Post bemoans Daniel Craig’s sculpted physique in Skyfall, comparing him unfavorably to the likes of Cary Grant:

Contrast this new Bond to Roger O. Thornhill, the charmingly hapless advertising man played by Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.” Like Bond, Thornhill pulls off some amazing physical feats—his mad frantic escape from the crop duster, the traverse of Mount Rushmore—and like Bond he wears an expensive suit. Unlike Bond, though, when he takes it off we do not see some marbleized man, an ersatz creation of some trainer, but a fit man, effortlessly athletic and just as effortlessly sophisticated.

Wishful thinking. I very much doubt that Cary Grant retained his fit appearance without effort, and even if he did he was just lucky that his natural body shape happened to be what women found sexy at the time. Cohen is 71, so he has lived through quite a few decades and should know that tastes change, which is why looking at pictures of 1980s high-school cheerleaders makes me giggle, not blush.

Cohen goes on to disparage shapely men for being ill-read:

Every rippling muscle is a book not read, a movie not seen or a conversation not held. That’s why Sean Connery was my kind of Bond. He was 53 when he made his last Bond film, “Never Say Never Again.”

This is a little beside the point, but find me someone who thinks Never Say Never Again (which only sort-of counts as a “Bond film”) reflects well on Sean Connery.

More importantly, Cohen here betrays his jealousy more clearly: he is now at the age when the opposite sex will more likely value his intellect or sophistication than his physical appearance. That was not true of Sean Connery at 53, and it is not true of Daniel Craig at 44.

Jill Filipovic writes a great response to Cohen’s petulance:

Men should not have to do anything other than be old in order to get whatever they want. Women, on the other hand, are desirable only when they are very young, and only if they are very thin and very white and very inexperienced and probably blonde. In Richard Cohen’s estimation, that is a sexual meritocracy, because “meritocracy” apparently means “I get whatever I want without having to work hard at it and also women are things.”

This is Just Depressing

Scott DeJarlais, a “pro-life” Republican Tea Party Congressman and doctor, slept with a patient, got her pregnant and then pushed her to have an abortion.

I’m still very skeptical of the idea that Republicans are deliberating waging a “war on women”, but it gets very hard to defend the pro-life movement and libertarian values when people act like this.

"Necessarily Misogynist"

Jill Filipovic of Feministe responds to the afore-linked interview:

I do think that belief in the importance of virginity before marriage and the concept of sexual purity feed into a necessarily misogynist worldview, wherever those views come from. I don’t think you can separate those views out from misogyny, and from a view that says sexuality is potentially sullying if not performed in the service of something other than mutual pleasure — reproduction, God, the family, the state.

This irks me. If “Maya” was maintaining her celibacy for any reason other than religious belief, we would hear nothing but support from other feminists. Insert God into the picture, though, and suddenly she’s being oppressed.

Filipovic has several other good thoughts in response to the interview, so her post is worth reading, but I’m not going to lie: my first impulse on reading her opening paragraph—not followed, because I am an adult—was to yell profanity at my computer.

Not All Ponies and Rainbows

Today the feminist corner of the internet is very much in love with this piece by Jill Filipovic for The Guardian debunking the exclusive morality of chastity before marriage. Despite my interest in reframing the conversation about pre-marital sex, particularly within the church, I found it riddled with unfounded assertion and the assumption that correllation equals causation. Here’s an example:

So here it goes: having sex before marriage is the best choice for nearly everyone.

How do I know? Well, first of all, nearly everyone has sex before marriage – 95% of Americans don’t wait until their wedding night. And that’s a longstanding American value. Even among folks in my grandparents’ generation, nine out of ten of them had sex before they wed.

Data? Not in evidence.

I see this type of ill-considered writing (and speech) all the time from evangelicals, too. It’s what happens when your culture becomes so insular that you start mistaking your conclusions for valid premises.