Tag Archives: Congress

Rob Portman Part 2

On Monday, I wrote about Senator Rob Portman’s change of heart on marriage equality. I was (am) very frustrated that it took having a gay son to get him to see the light. That said, a lot of people on the internet and in real life have been making some excellent points about parenting, political motivation, and basic human psychology. I think we have too low expectations of our political representatives. Anyway, I stand by what I wrote, with some asterisks.

I expanded on those asterisks in a more formal (hopefully more nuanced) piece for Role/Reboot

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Dear Rob Portman, Why Is Using Your Imagination So Hard?

portmanSo, as I’m sure you know, Senator Rob Portman (Republican of Ohio) has reversed his position on marriage equality thanks to the coming out of his son:

“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years.”

On one hand, I welcome you, Senator Portman, to the fold. The fastest way for us to get to marriage equality is for people to change their minds (the alternative is for people to die, which will happen anyway, but it will take longer) and if this is why you switched sides, fine, we’ll take it.

On the other hand, your statement displays a profound and disturbing lack of empathy. You weren’t able to imagine the inequality until your own son was the subject of discrimination? Do you realize how narrow-minded and hypocritical that makes you seem? Even the phrasing of the statement has this weird moral passing-of-the-buck. The subject is “It,” referencing your son’s coming out, and “it” allowed you to see it from a new perspective. Nothing should “allow” or compel you to see from multiple perspectives; that’s basically your job! You serve as a government representative for a state of eleven million people! The whole idea of representative government is that we pick people to, oh, I don’t know, represent us and speak on our behalf. In order to do that job, your #1 skill has to be empathy and the willingness to try on different perspectives!

Mr. Portman, why did you never speak to the parents of the other gay children? Or gay individuals themselves? And if you did, why is the plight of your son the one that tips the scales? Columbus, OH, full of your constituents, is one of the 20 gayest cities in the country, full of thousands upon thousands of gay people. Their friends and family have the same hopes and dreams for them as you do for your son! How can you be so callous of other people’s rights? How can you ignore inequality until it impacts your family? Don’t you see the hypocrisy?

But alas, you’re not alone. Last week Mother Jones took a look at the voting records of members of Congress to see if having a daughter impacted their votes on women’s issues. They used the NOW (National Organization for Women) score as a proxy for “voting well on women’s issues,” and found that, as you might suspect, members of Congress from both parties who have at least one daughter have higher NOW scores. Why does it taking having a female child to get you to think critically about the rights of women? Why is it so hard to get outside your own privileged little skull and walk in someone else’s shoes? 

This is not just an exclusively Republican failure, either. We have a habit in this country of electing people very much unlike ourselves. Congress members are three times more likely to send their kids to private school. About 40% of them are millionaires. They’re overwhelmingly white and male. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, since one does not have to be of a certain group to work on behalf of that group, but this system only works of those that we elect are diligent about understanding the needs of their constituents, not just the needs of their peers. And they’re not.

That’s why I find Portman’s change of heart so… disheartening. It shouldn’t take a gay kid to lead you to the conclusion that our government should treat people the same. It shouldn’t take having a daughter to know that autonomy over your body is the foundation of economic and social equality. Waiting until these realities slap you in the face in the form of your own offspring, that’s just some lazy, lazy representing. Glad you’re with us now, but you should be ashamed it took you so long.

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Sunday Scraps 98

sunday98

1. CHINA: Excellent long-form piece for the NYT Magazine about the marriage market in China. A huge gender imbalance has created a strange and stressful dynamic at every economic strata of society.

2. LENA: In this Playboy interview, Lena Dunham explains, among other things, why she’s pleased she doesn’t look like a supermodel.

3. JOURNALISM: Super fascinating look at the work of Bob Woodward. In researching his own Belushi biography, journalist Tanner Colby unravels the shoddy work of one of the most famous journalists of all time.

4. WRITERS: The relationship between writer (George Saunders) and editor (Andy Ward) is pulled apart in insane detail in this Slate interview. Jesus, these people are smaaaart.

5. BULLY: In the XX Factor‘s ongoing series about bullying, a current rabbi confronts her past as a member of a menacing tween gang.

6. GENDERMother Jones measures the voting records of members of Congress on women’s issues. Unsurprisingly, there’s a correlation with having daughters and a pro-woman voting record. Sigh.

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Filed under Body Image, Books, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

Pelosi Rolls Deep

Obviously, I’ve been a little behind the ball this week on the blog. Busy things afoot!

I am currently sitting in the Michigan student union with my family while we spend quality family time tapping away at screens of various sizes. I jest, it’s actually pretty nice. Also, best part of traveling with family? “Dad, can I have money for the soda machine?”

Anyway, some BAMFery for your Saturday morning:

That would be the definition of “rolling deep.” You tell him, Nance. As has been pointed out, it’s not wrong to ask about young leadership and cultivating the next generation of political minds. It is not cool, however, to call out Pelosi ’cause she’s a lady, or you don’t like her, or whatever. What about McConnell, huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

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Sunday Scraps 82

1. SPORTS: New York Times Magazine has a killer front page story on Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder, how NBA can revitalize a city, and a city can dig in and support a team.

2. LADIES: Mother Jones has compiled a quick list of some kick-ass stats about women this election cycle. You’ve probably seen them, but it’s pretty powerful to line them up like this.

3. MARRIAGE EQUALITY: NFL-er of my dreams, Minnesota kicker Chris Kluwe, writes for Slate about what an amazing day it was on Tuesday. Progressive athletes = the coolest.

4. MADDOW: Have you seen Rachel Maddow’s summary of Tuesday’s results. Girlface kills it so hard.

5. BIGOTRY: Dominic Holden for The Stranger undertakes an interesting experiment, calling all of the biggest donors who contributed to the fight against marriage equality in Washington.

6. NYC: Great story in NYMag about the process of creating what will soon be the iconic image of post-Sandy NYC.

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So How About That

More tomorrow on the election in general, but for now let’s talk about Tammy Baldwin.

She was the one who got me started with the crying.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading at work about corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the idea I keep coming back to is bringing one’s “whole self” to work.

What does it do to people when they feel like they can’t post a photo of their family, or talk about their personal lives, or speak with their real voices? How can you truly contribute if a piece of your brain is worried about letting slip the wrong pronoun?

There was a generation, no… several generations, who had to choose between being themselves and becoming a public servant. The election of Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator, is another crushing blow to that Chinese wall that queer Americans have had to create between their personal lives and their professional lives.

Fuck, sometimes America is pretty alright.

Related Post: When NYC passed marriage equality.

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HuffPo and the Changing Iconograpy of the Abortion Debate

Have you seen the front page of the Huffington Post today?

As of 12:58pm CT

Yowza, kinda smacks you in the face, doesn’t it? I’m not a huge fan of journalistic sensationalism, of which this most certainly suffers, but sometimes the digital equivalent of stomping your feet and screaming at the top of your lungs is necessary.

The lack of a rape exemption is only the most egregious piece of an egregiously sexist platform. The fundamental problem here is that the Republican party (not all Republicans, mind you), does not value the autonomy of women over their reproductive health. You want fewer abortions? Promote comprehensive sex education. Help women afford birth control the way you help old men get erections. Block discrimination against gay and single parents who want to adopt. Give me social services that might actually help me raise a child if I chose to carry to term an unplanned pregnancy. Give me choice and agency.

Do you remember when the established iconography of the abortion debate was the clothes hanger? Neither do I. History books tell me that there was a point when ending back alley abortions and protecting women from harm was a respected goal.  Do you remember when the mental, emotional and physical health of women were prioritized above the potential of a fetus? It was not that long ago.

For those of us born in the 80s, as far back as we can remember, the representative image of the abortion debate has been a bloody fetus. The pro-life movement has been very effective (kudos?) at convincing us all that the question we need to be asking no matter the circumstances of the pregnancy is “what about the baby?” It used to be, “what about the woman?” and the shifting popular imagery illustrates that ideological change.

Mike Huckabee went as far as to call out exemplary Americans who were the results of “forcible” rape, as if their contributions to our culture justified the suffering of their mothers. What about the women that hemorrhaged to death after clothes-hanger abortions? Might they have changed the world for the better? What about teenaged girls who didn’t get a chance at college because no one taught them how to not get pregnant and they were left with no options? Might they have cured cancer or written masterpieces or saved the world? Potential for greatness is not the unique province of unborn fetuses.

Related Post: The Republican Roadmap for Your Reproductive Future.

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