Why women’s rights are moving backwards as gay rights advance

I was asked asked by someone on Twitter this weekend why the fight for gay rights we doing so well of late, especially when some other progressive movements, like women’s rights, seemed to be moving backwards.

Do u think part of the reason gay rights has moved forward while women’s rights backwards is b/c gay rights includes men’s rights?

It’s an interesting question, and a difficult one, because it takes a good understand of both question: Why gay rights have done so well; and why women’s right haven’t?  I know a lot about the former, and while I worked on women’s issue for a number of years consulting with Planned Parenthood, I don’t know them as deeply as I know gay rights.  Still, it’s a point worth considering.

First, as for the gender issue, it’s hard to say.  The conventional wisdom in gay politics has always been that lesbians were the kinder and gentler face of the movement.  That straight men aren’t threatened by lesbians (and even, crudely, find lesbians “hot”).  Whereas they hate gay men, are threatened by gay men, etc.  And gay men represent the sexualized component of our movement, in part because gay men got AIDS, whereas lesbians didn’t in as great of numbers, and the religious right and their GOP allies were happy to use AIDS against us.  So it’s not clear that the presence of gay men made the gay movement more sympathetic-seeming to the outside, but still, it’s an interesting argument.

It’s not just women, the left hasn’t done terribly well the last 12 years

In reality, the issue, and the problem, seems to go far beyond women’s rights.  Ever since September 11, a lot of progressive issues haven’t done terribly well.  Women’s issues, to be sure, but on the environment and gun control things have generally been stagnant legislatively and moving backwards in the polls (up until Sandy Hook changed things on the gun issue, though possibly only temporarily).

Chris handles Wall Street reform for us, and I’m sure he’ll tell you that not nearly enough has happened on that issue, even after the world almost ended in September of 2008.

On health care reform, we eeked out a victory by the skin of our teeth, and it still wasn’t the extent of victory we should have had considering the forces lined up against the Republicans (and conservative Dems) right after the 2008 election.

On immigration, things are only improving after 1) the immigration movement adopted the in-your-face tactics of gay activists; and 2) the GOP freaked out about the Latino vote after the 2012 elections.

Democrats are bad at PR, gays less so

Having said that, the Democrats are in control of the White House and the Senate, so it’s not like America has turned against Democrats and our ideas.  The problem is something else.  I’ve often chalked it up, in part at least, to a lack of political marketing know-how, or even an appreciation of the need for political marketing, among Democrats.  Democrats often don’t know how to fight, at least in the policy realm (for elections, oddly, they tend to do better).  So we don’t win nearly as much as we should, and could, because the people fighting for our ideas don’t do it very well.

On gay rights, the most innovative, and some of the most influential, work in the past few years came from non-standard players.  You had the gay Netroots, Get Equal, Dan Choi and a number of ticked off current and former servicemembers, which included upstart groups like OutServe and Servicemembers United, and some mainstream groups like SLDN.  And all of them were effective because they were willing to exert more pressure than is polite on the administration, and Congress.

Now, it’s an interesting question as to whether gender played a role here, going back to the question I was asked on Twitter, about whether the presence of men in the gay movement made a difference.  I have been told by a number of women that men tend to practice politics, and talk about politics, differently than women, in part because women face far more, and nastier, vitriol than men when they get involved in politics in the first place. It’s an interesting question as to whether an activist group that inclues men acts differently, comes up with different strategies and tactics, and challenges power more than a group made up exclusively of women (put another way, were gay advocates willing to be nastier, and less worried about blowback, because many of the activists were men?). I’m not entirely sure.  GetEqual, for example, was run by a fierce woman, my friend Robin McGehee.  But gender, per se, defines the women’s movement in a way that it doesn’t define other progressive movements, so it’s a question worth asking. It would be interesting to hear from more women as to whether they think a group of women might act differently, in a political context, strategically and tactically, than a group of men and women, or just men.

Back to the independent gay activists I mentioned above, it should be noted that those players didn’t act in a vacuum.  There were other mainstream groups that will say they were influential, and one hopes they were, and the times were a-changin’, and that didn’t hurt either.  As gay people continued to come out to family, friends and coworkers, and as Hollywood and the media increasingly portrayed gay people as human beings, the religious right caricature (lie) of a gay person couldn’t stand against the reality of the truth.

Gays have the “advantage” of being further behind women, which makes our message clearer

To some degree, I feel that asking why gay rights is proceeding and issue X isn’t is a bit like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. Yes, there were a number of media-savvy, fearless, advocates who were critical to advancing our cause, especially online the past 15 or so years.  But perhaps the gay rights battle did well because we lacked the subtlety of the women’s rights cause.  What I mean by that is that the religious right invested an awful lot of time and money into portraying gay people as something we weren’t.  As that false image started to shatter, so did the prejudice long upheld by that falsity.

Line of women via Shutterstock

Line of women via Shutterstock

Do women face the same demonization?  Maybe, but I don’t think the public perceives it the same.  I think today’s gay rights movement is more akin to the fight for women’s suffrage – a clear discriminatory harm that made it easier to rally against, and eventually easier to poke holes in, than the current battles facing women.  I’m not saying suffrage was easy – I’m saying that as an organizer, a political operative, the battle lines were clearer, and the issue easier to sell, in my view, than the problems women face today.

Women’s advocates, in many ways, are fighting a war of nuance.  Where gays want to get married, women don’t want the right to choose, which varies by trimester, cut back any further by a seemingly-endless series of small, but significant, legislative advances by anti-choice forces that slowly but surely whittle away at the right to choose.  The gay battle lines, and message, are much clearer, and thus an easier sell, I think.

Are women a victim of their own success?

In many ways, the women’s rights movement is a victim of its own success.  As a man, it’s not as easy to see where women are still lacking in rights (that doesn’t mean they aren’t, I’m saying that clarity of the harm isn’t as stark as perhaps it once was).  On gay rights, there are hate crimes that shock the sensibilities.  There were decorated gay servicemembers losing their livelihood simply because of who they were.  And there were loving gay couples who just wanted the chance to settle down like everyone else.  It was easy for us as advocates to define the rights we didn’t have.

From a man’s perspective, you see women getting the same jobs as man as never before.  Women are corporate CEOs, doctors and pilots and lawyers and astronauts (something noteworthy if you’re in your 40s or older and lived through a time when women simply didn’t hold those jobs), and they even become Speaker of the House, and might even become President in 2016.  And, for all appearance, Roe v Wade is still the law of the land, so it’s understandable that some might scratch their heads and ask, what are pro-choicers complaining about?  They’re complaining because in the 40 years since Roe the religious right and the Republican party have so whittled away at Roe as to make it meaningless, according to some lead women’s advocates.  And, even though women now hold many of the same jobs as men, they don’t always get the same pay.  But that takes some complicated explaining, and it contradicts what the public might consider an obvious “truth,” that Roe hasn’t been overturned, so how can it be in danger, or nearly already gone, and women “have the same jobs as men,” so what’s the problem?

And in many ways, African-Americans face the same problem as women.  It’s easy for people to say “slavery ended 150 years ago, and the Civil Rights Act passed 50 years ago, so the African-American struggle is over,” without realizing that, for example, some schools in the south still hold segregated proms.  People see African-American CEOs, doctors, lawyers, astronauts, and might think “they’ve won, employment discrimination over,” without understanding that, in some ways, it may never be over, at least not for a very long time.  But the devil is in the details much more so than it is with gay rights because we’re still fighting for some of the rights that African-Americans got (at least on paper) fifty years ago.  It makes our cause, I think, easier to explain.  It also means that once we get many of our basic civil rights, gays may have the same difficulty fine-tuning those rights once people already think we have them.

Voters don’t do nuance

In a nutshell, people don’t do nuance.  If you have to explain too many details, the public’s eyes glaze over.  And on gay rights, in part because a lot of us are good at messaging, and in part because our message itself, the harm itself, is rather clear-cut, we’ve had more success than many on the left in the past decade.

But it’s not just that.  I’ve written a lot about how much of the professional left, as some like to call it, rolled over and played dead the past 12 years.  And I think a lot of professional gay rights did too, to a degree.  But our activists didn’t.  Which actually raises another issue, AIDS.  Nothing galvanizes a community, and inspires activists, like widespread death and political inaction.  That’s an essay in and of itself.

So I do think that each community has its own unique problems that it faces in selling its message.  But I also think that a big part of the problem is what I called “political marketing,” or public relations.  Aka, knowing how to sell your product (and knowing the value of knowing).  The gays are particularly good at it.  Other lefties in the past ten years, less so.  And the one group that watched our success, and tried to learn from it and emulate it – immigration reform advocates – are now having success of their own, not just because they copied our model, but it helped.

So that’s a modest beginning at trying to explain what the heck happened that made gay rights one of the shining successes of progressivism this past decade.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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143 Responses to “Why women’s rights are moving backwards as gay rights advance”

  1. GreenLantern says:

    Its gender thats the problem. There is no point women having equal rights if they are still forced into conventional gender expression. What we need is freedom of gender expression, and an end to binary gender.

  2. 1234anon123ymous says:

    wow- sounds like you need to move if it is that dangerous where you are; an absence of crime will NEVER happen. Where you live, like what you choose to do with your body, is your own choice- Seriously. Or you can fight the fight (like it sounds like you want to do) which again, is your choice. And worthwhile if you are genuine. Which I doubt because of all the hatelaced dialogue. You dont want equality or rights- you want revenge.

    But attacking someone for “not helping you” and blaming them and their ilk directly as if they had done this to you? ? ? Entitled much?!?

    What’s next, I pay you an effing salary/health benefits/childcare because I am more successful/live in a better neighborhood than you? Yeah, I am ashamed of all the hard work, adversity, and dedication I weathered to be able to provide for my family. It was easy-won, so much so it must have been on the backs of others. Because of where I am now, I must be a user and usurper of human rights, who hates all things women (except my mother/wife/daughter). Who the fuck do I think I am?

  3. caphillprof says:

    That’s just buck passing. Women remain responsible for their rights.

  4. Audrey S says:

    So do you also have an issue with the use of “straight” for “non-gay”?

    “Cis” (Latin: “on the same side”) is the literal opposite of “trans” (Latin: “on opposite sides”), which makes it the only logical word to use in trans contexts. “Non-trans” is pretty damn otherizing to trans people.

  5. How are women doing fine? One in four are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, reproductive rights are more in jeopardy now than in decades, we still make 77 cents to the dollar men get paid in the workforce, and women of color face higher rates of violence and shorter life spans. Some of your critiques about feminist individuals and organizations are valid, but feminism is way too multifaceted to paint it all with the same brush. Also, can you verify your statement that half of women don’t do time in prison when they murder someone?

  6. I know, and he was halfway there with his language, but I do think sometimes we (and I do it too) jump down people’s throats who haven’t really “gone there” yet. Sometimes people ask stupid questions without intending to be rude, and they deserve polite answers because they just might be sincerely trying to discuss the matter, and even learn. Sometimes.

  7. Exactly. There’s a great play I saw, in the 90s, at the Kennedy Center – the Twilight of the Golds – about a gay guy and his sister is pregnant, and they find out the kid is going to be gay (it’s set like 15 years in the future), and they debate whether to have an abortion – the play is about how the brother responds etc. REally interesting.

  8. Soullite says:

    Feminists tend to be obnoxious, hypocritical and censorious. They don’t believe in open debate (just look at their websites; agree with them or get banned). They don’t believe in equality (not as any normal person would look at it) — just look at the laws they pass, ‘primary aggressor’ statutes mean that even if a man calls the police because his wife beats him, he will be arrested — because cops are also trained to ALWAYS see men as the primary aggressor. They gave women the ability to guarantee custody by claiming domestic violence, and judges are trained to believe that women would never lie about domestic violence (because they are perfect, saintly creatures, regardless of the incentives not to be). At this point, a man can be sent to jail for slamming a door. Half the time, a woman won’t even get sent to prison if she straight up murders someone. Feminist fear mongering over rape hysteria has created an environment where men can’t even go clothes shopping with their children (or go to the park, or pick their kids up at school, or work in daycare) without being accused of child molestation

    Women are doing fine. Feminism is losing credibility because they are responsible for promoting some god-awful ideas, which have had real-world consequences. And they don’t even pretend to care — their feelings are the only things they care about, and if men have to sacrifice their rights at that altar, they are just fine with that, too.

  9. BeccaM says:

    I know what you mean. What I wanted to say to Condew was, “You encountered two women who behaved in an anti-male way. Welcome to how it is for us women nearly all the friggin’ time.”

    It’s better than it was a generation ago, but still…

  10. karmanot says:


  11. karmanot says:

    Don’t be too hard on yourself with some research you’ll eventually get it.

  12. davids12 says:

    :rolleyes: Obvious concern troll is obvious.

  13. Naja pallida says:

    Does that apply to those who want to take rights away? Which is really what we’re talking about.

  14. I hate to stray too far from the topic of reproductive rights but, really, what a sad, conservative, shut-up-and-comply approach to civic engagement.
    I think it’s admirable that civil rights and anti-war activists stomped their feet in marches in the 60’s.
    I think it’s admirable that Mahatma Ghandi and Bobby Sands used the adult equivalent of holding one’s breath to protest subjugation by an alien empire.
    I’d never lump violence in with peaceful protest and conscientious objection.

  15. Naja pallida says:

    You’re right, it goes both ways… there are many things in our government that I object to, but I don’t stomp my feet and hold my breath, or threaten violence, unless I get my way. That’s simply not how it works.

  16. Skeptical Cicada says:


  17. karmanot says:

    True, the glass ceiling was created with thousands of betrayals and insults.

  18. Naja pallida says:

    It is a fundamental problem of the left that we fail to express that taxes are not supposed to be a form of oppression or somehow punitive. They are supposed to be a way to improve society for everyone. We all like good roads, clean water, untainted food, police protection… sometimes that means we pay for things we don’t like, or don’t want to pay for, or don’t see any benefit from. You take the good with the bad, because that’s just how a representative government works.

  19. karmanot says:

    Mining his comment for value only turns up fool’s gold.

  20. karmanot says:

    Defending the appearance of Libertarian probity is a trap that captures the best of us. ‘Warning Will Rogers.’ I was once a young, slutty, irresponsible feminist. Now I am old, but still a feminist.

  21. “one group’s personal or religious opinion does not and should not speak for the majority, nor even drown out the voice of the majority”

    The voice of the majority shouldn’t drown out the rights of the minority or the individual. That’s why abortion should be legal and why it shouldn’t be publicly funded. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    “What if Jehovah’s Witnesses get political power and decide to start trying to ban blood transfusions? Would that be okay?”

    No, but it would be okay for them to conscientiously object to having their wages garnished to pay for it.

    “The best I can do is participate in the process, and hope the majority agrees with me… and when it doesn’t, just deal with it.”

    Nope! Majority rule in the American democratic process does not trump certain individual rights. The right to choose to have an abortion was established by a Supreme Court ruling arguing from a Constitutional right to privacy, and not by statute or plebiscite. Freedom of conscience and private property rights are every bit as important to protect.

  22. karmanot says:

    But what if the fetus is gay?

  23. karmanot says:

    The quality of your compassion and patience is simply amazing.

  24. Papa Bear says:

    “…one group’s personal or religious opinion does not and should not speak for the majority…”

    Or the minority…

  25. Naja pallida says:

    If you believe everyone is entitled to health care, you can’t really start picking and choosing what care you think they deserve and don’t deserve. What if Jehovah’s Witnesses get political power and decide to start trying to ban blood transfusions? Would that be okay? Of course it isn’t, but one group’s personal or religious opinion does not and should not speak for the majority, nor even drown out the voice of the majority. Despite what we’re seeing in our current broken process.

    We all pay taxes for things that we might object to, and things we don’t make use of nor get benefit from, but in a civilized society that is just how things work. I don’t have children, and have never attended a public school in the US, yet I pay thousands a year into school taxes. Why? Because that is the price of living in a society with other people. I pay a portion of Ted Cruz’s salary with my taxes, when I think he should be paid only in dog feces, yet that, again, is the cost of democracy. I can’t just cry whenever my taxes go to something I don’t like. The best I can do is participate in the process, and hope the majority agrees with me… and when it doesn’t, just deal with it. Cast my vote, call my Congressman, and hope next time around things work for me.

    Of course, the argument about abortion rights has never really been about public funding of it, despite that frequently being used as a convenient diversion. Republicans in the states are trying to outright ban abortion any way they can, not just prevent taxpayer money being used to pay for it – which is already law.

  26. BeccaM says:

    We certainly don’t have much influence in government, aside from a few issues nibbling in from the edges of what really matters.

    I mean, we’re arguing about gay rights vs women’s rights — and while they’re very important, they pale next to the other rights once proclaimed to be basic human rights and which are now essentially ignored. I’m talking, of course, about the right to shelter, food, a good education, a good job, access to health care, and a decent guaranteed standard of living for everyone.

    All of which is attainable and affordable, if only our government wasn’t controlled utterly by the plutocratic bastards, who would gladly have us think that if one group gets some civil rights, it somehow creates a shortage of rights for others. I wonder if they don’t just laugh and laugh.

  27. BeccaM says:

    True, that. The bigots have been asserting for decades now, ever since Anita Bryant in the 1980s, that there mere existence of gay people harms children.

  28. BeccaM says:

    If I had a dollar every time something like that was said to me or about me, or when I was accused of being overly emotional in a workplace disagreement… let’s just say I’d actually have a decent 401k balance.

  29. Ellen Gaines says:

    No, this is not all that perplexing a question. And you’re being tone-deaf in your comment when you keep discussing reproductive aka abortion rights and contraception, and ignoring the enormous prevalence of rape and sexual harassment of women.
    You’re speaking from a position of privilege and you don’t realize it. Abortion rights may be a huge priority for a married, white-collar, middle-class woman like you who can afford to travel to other cities for abortion rights marches and what not. For a lower-income, single woman such as myself, I really pretty much want to avoid getting raped every time I move around in my shitty, unsafe neighborhood. But my life and my body simply does not matter to feminist leaders. Yours does. My lower income neighbor’s body doesn’t matter to feminist leaders even as she worries that she’ll end up in the horrible nursing home nearby where she said that she saw old people lying in their own feces. Your body and your life matters though. She could very well get molested there by orderlies. What does it matter? It’s not like anyone’s taking away her abortion rights. The bodies and lives of military women who get raped don’t count for anything. But hey, you count for something.

    Don’t presume that your problems are mine. And by the way, your ilk and your generation has done a useless job of helping my kind and my generation. That right there is one of the main reason why the women’s rights movement has failed so spectacularly. Your generation and socioeconomic class is way more interested in worrying that someone in the media is calling some woman fat than in rape, sexual harassment in public spaces and equal pay.

    Just because you personally have not observed a woman being harassed and groped in public spaces, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Abortion rights may be a huge deal for someone like you who can actually afford to have one. Women who are lower down on the socioeconomic hierarchy don’t only face the enormous struggles of finding contraception and abortion providers. They struggle even more with leaving their homes every single day because men are always around to grope them, attack them and humiliate them. You also completely ignored what I said about elderly women being utterly neglected by the feminist movement. Do you realize how working class and lower income are actually incentivized to have a lot of children? Who else is there to look after them when they age? You? Ms Steinem? NARAL? NOW?
    Another commenter talked about the horrifying prevalence of rape in the military. S/he’s completely right in being angry at feminists for not once stepping up and having their back.

    Abortion and contraception rights are a huge deal to me. But frankly, look at the miserable choices I have in contraception: pills that cause hormonal problems and heart disease and diabetes, IUDs that migrate outside the uterus, condoms that break and that I have to convince men to wear. If I invite a guy to my apartment and I decide that I don’t want to have sex with him, but he rapes me, what are my rights? I’m a lower income woman. I live in a shitty neighborhood. I’m not like you. Juries will side with someone like you, if you were to get raped. They don’t side with people like me. Why would cops and prosecutors invest time and energy into a case involving someone who’s not a higher bracket taxpayer? I’m better off staying completely celibate. You, on the other hand, get to be married and you got to choose from among multiple sexual partners. If you had gotten raped, your daddy and mommy would have raised a ruckus and demanded that the local prosecutor and law enforcement Do Something. What do women like me do who don’t have a family to fall back on and are lower income?

    Secondly, what John said is 100% true. I have personally observed enormous hostility directed against men in feminist gatherings. Time and time again. Your husband might be a Great Guy and what not. But who the fuck cares besides you? And okay so you saw a bunch of men at an abortion rights rally. Big whoop. Do you realize that men who are not religious support abortion rights mostly because they don’t want to end up paying for the upbringing of a kid they don’t want? Men support abortion rights because they have an enormous financial stake in it now that paternity testing has become fast and cheap and child support payments can hurt their finances. Get an anti-rape rally going. Then we’ll see how many men show up. Get an equal pay rally going. Then we’ll see how many men show up.

    You sound incredibly naïve and selective in what you hear about the problems that women like me, who don’t have access to your world, face. Kindly spend less time assuming that obvious questions are perplexing when they’re not. They’re perplexing only to people like you who are part of the problem.

    Take a look at the links below regarding sexual harassment of women in public areas. Be sure to have some soothing cup of whatever Whole Foods gentle soothing herbal New Age Wise Women’s special moon time blend tea there is. What you will read will shock you.

  30. Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for abortions any more than we ought to be forced to pay for drone strikes with 97% civilian casualties. Women should be free to make their own health choices, and those who have serious conscientious objections to abortion should be free from having to pay for them. Everyone just keep their f*****g hands to themselves.

  31. karmanot says:

    At least she didn’t ask you if it was that time of the month when you got sour attitude.

  32. karmanot says:

    Ever hear of the Constitutionality of Roe v Wade? Follow the end game of State’s Rights. It’s soooo obvious it would bite you on the butt. What do I want the Obozo DoJ to do: simple, investigate and prosecute.

  33. karmanot says:

    “a lot of guys, don’t realize things are still this bad. Which then helps to keep things bad.” It’s true, things are this bad. Women friends are always talking about it, yet the national zeitgeist seems deaf, dumb and blind. I mean does it get much worse than Virginia’s Gov. Ul;tra Sound.

  34. I don’t think misrepresenting abortion as a widely used method of contraception is harmless or deserves a respectful answer. It’s a baseless argument with the sole intention of muddying the waters. You can mine his comment for insight into the debate, but that doesn’t mean such ignorance deserves any kind of respect.

  35. karmanot says:


  36. “Women always want to be equal, until they want to be more than equal.” So you had two bad experiences in your workplace with women, and based on that you’ve made a pronouncement about 51% of the population. Does this work in reverse? Do I get to accuse all men of being pedophiles because of some bad luck I had during my childhood? Are you really blind to how fallacious, not to mention bigoted, your so-called reasoning is?

  37. Zorba says:

    Excellent comments, Ellen. All of your comments.
    And I would add that another issue totally ignored by the feminist movement is rape and sexual assault in the military. Women who are raped in the military are very unlikely to report it. And when they do, their rapist is very unlikely to be court-martialed. And if he is, he is unlikely to be convicted. And even if he is convicted, a superior officer can void that conviction, as happened with the Wilkerson case. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/08/hagel-military-sexual-assault-overhaul)
    Not to mention the fact that the woman who comes forward with the accusation often has her career ruined. And her rapist remains unpunished.
    I sure haven’t heard word one from the feminist movement about these military women.
    I guess it’s in the same area of neglect as harassment of working women who walk or take public transportation, and the poor elderly women.
    These women are simply not on the radar screen of the feminist movement.

  38. BeccaM says:

    I’ve got no problem with your first paragraph. Equal is equal. But your anecdotes don’t exactly wash because in both cases those women appear to have been behaving badly.

    I could offer a similar anecdote for when I contracted at Bell Labs, and there was the one total asshole manager with a streak of misogyny a mile wide. Despite numerous complaints from women working for him, including me, the best they ever did was to transfer him out of direct management roles. He wasn’t fired.

  39. FLL says:

    Agreed that the women’s movement (and other progressive causes for that matter) should take note of the successful techniques used recently by the gay rights movement, including raising holy hell via direct action groups like GetEQUAL, which function as a “nuclear option.” Agreed also that no one is counting any chickens yet, and I certainly don’t doubt that if the GOP were to regain the majority they had in the early 00s, things would go badly for gay rights. The lesson for all progressive groups is to hold candidates’ feet to the fire before they are elected to office as well as after. That means congressional candidates next year and presidential primary candidates in 2016. No public support during campaigns = no votes. Not following through on promises = GetEQUAL protesting at your doorstep. Play to win.

  40. BeccaM says:

    Yep. I’d say the worst offenders are those who merely support GOP and anti-gay Dem candidates, in essence, voting against their own self-interests.

    To this day, I still remember Phyllis Schlafly and her betrayal with the ERA.

  41. BeccaM says:

    Sorry, but I get touchy when the language shifts to this anti-abortion meme that it’s being abused as a means of contraception by what’s implied to be slutty, irresponsible women.

    I don’t know Brown Gay Al and whether he meant to use ‘irony’ tags.

  42. davids12 says:

    I don’t know exactly what you want the Obama DoJ to do. Can you be specific about an action they could have taken, Constitutionally, which they didn’t? The DoJ can’t challenge state laws on abortion at all to my knowledge, they can’t show any harm. Voting is a different matter but I’m not sure what suppression of women specifically you’re talking about. As I’m sure you know, they have been pro-active about challenging voter ID laws and the like.

  43. Wow, just read those 4 articles. Just wow. It’s interesting, because I was thinking of taking them and writing a post, about the fact that I don’t think a lot of guys realize that women still face THAT much abuse just walking down the street. But I’m honestly worried that I’m going to get crap for writing something like that, that I’ll be called naive, anti-women, or something for suggesting that I, and a lot of guys, don’t realize things are still this bad. Which then helps to keep things bad. This isn’t exclusive to women’s issues, but as I commented elsewhere, it’s a problem that people who want to help don’t feel comfortable trying to help.

  44. BeccaM says:

    Okay, the longer response & reaction–

    I think there are a number of factors at work here, some of which I and other commenters have touched upon: Complacency (I think this one is probably the biggest reason). Prominent and powerful women working against our own interests. Lack of organization and urgency.

    I’ll suggest another: The mistake women have been making in hitching our equal rights bandwagon exclusively to the Democratic Party. There is no doubt that the Dems are far more ‘female-friendly’ in terms of official party policy. But the problem comes when the Dems fail to stand up — such as with the Stupak Amendment, co-sponsored by Democrat Bart Stupak and supported by quite a few Dems in Congress — they aren’t challenged on it. Or the Blunt Amendment, supported and voted for by Nelson, Manchin, and Casey. None of them will face women’s group protests or primary challenges.

    There’s this ingrained unwillingness to criticize women’s purported political allies when the betray us. Or to make much noise when the Dems fail to carry out their campaign promises. I mean, they’re unequivocal in the party platform about being 100% in favor of women’s reproductive freedom — including access to contraceptives and abortion, regardless of ability to afford them. True, the PPACA includes contraceptive coverage — but has conscience exemptions carved into it. And when’s the last time the Dems actively fought to advance access to abortion services, as opposed to quietly standing by while the misogynists and patriarchs erode that right? State after state has passed blatantly unconstitutional laws banning abortions and regulating clinics out of existence — so where are the DoJ lawsuits? Where are the federal injunctions and judicial stays?

    That all said, I’d caution against counting the gay rights chickens. While it’s true that we’ve seen a remarkable reversal in public opinion on gay rights, but as we women have learned, just because something is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, such as the 70% who believe Roe v Wade should not be overturned, and 90% believe abortion should be legal in at least some instances, that hasn’t stopped the opposition from passing law after law edging towards their stated goal of a total ban.

    Support for marriage equality and gay rights in general is indeed at an all time high — but we face a decidedly anti-democratic (small-d) opposition who will do anything to achieve their regressive agendas. Suppose the GOP wins back the majority they had in the early 00s. Anyone here think they wouldn’t take the opportunity to pass a Super-DOMA, if the original one was overturned? Especially if, as many now suspect, SCOTUS would now only overturn section 3 on the narrowest of reasons, and with a decision that likely would include helpful suggestion from the regressive cabal of justices on how to write a DOMA to pass Constitutional muster?

    There’s progress…and there’s what we actually achieved. So we got a DADT repeal — with Obama and the Dems passing one that took a year to implement and with no anti-discrimination language. Their choice. A federal hate crimes law that’s almost never been used to prosecute an anti-gay bias crime. No ENDA, again. And an administration that actively opposed marriage equality for its first three years in office. Even now, they still want it to be left up to the states, and so see no equal protection or due process problems with some gays and lesbians being ‘less equal’ than others, solely based on geography.

    In those cases where we’ve managed advancement on LGBT rights, it’s almost always been driven not by the Democratic party, but by well-organized and stridently vocal activist groups who are willing to give the Dems shit when they fail to deliver — and to reward them when they do. Squeaky wheels get the grease and all that, but more importantly: Judicious application of both stick and carrot.

    Joe Sudbay kept after Obama, asking him when he’d finally evolve on marriage equality. So did GetEQUAL and other gay rights groups. When is the last time a women’s rights group went after the Dems to ask them, “So when are you actually going to protect reproductive freedoms — all of them, including abortion rights — as opposed to standing by with your thumbs up your asses as the GOPers take them away?”

  45. FLL says:

    I fail to sense any hostility towards the women’s movement anywhere in your post. I would ask your Twitter colleague to be more specific. In the absence of a more specific complaint, it would seem that your Twitter critic is just “making stuff up.” Hmm. Making stuff up. Where have I heard that before?

  46. At least from that one comment, he’s not being a jerk and deserves a respectful answer. His point is that anti-gay-marriage types are having a hard time coming up with a “harm” caused by gay marriage. Anti-abortion types have an easy time coming up with a harm, death of the fetus. We can disagree about whether that’s a valid argument, but it’s a strong argument and an easy one to make. Whereas the religious right couldn’t come up with a good argument for how gay marriage “harms” even before the Supreme Court a few weeks ago. Thus it’s harder for pro-choice advocates than it is for pro-gay-marriage ones to make an argument against harm. And it’s a fair point.

  47. Maybe, but they certainly have been arguing that gay marriage hurts society. And I think for years they argued successfully that gays “hurt” society, children etc

  48. When will America have a man as president?

  49. As for your last question – the same reason it’s okay to have a group to promote black pride and not one to promote white pride. The difference is obvious on its face – one group isn’t about promoting racism, the other is. White people aren’t in need of an organization to restore their self-esteem about centuries of abuse. That doesn’t mean non-whites can’t be racist. It does mean that there’s an obviously difference between the two communities in question, historically. And that’s why they’re allowed pride groups and nazis aren’t./

  50. condew says:

    OK, how about organizations to promote men in jobs generally dominated by women, like elementary school teachers or nurses, or even hotel maids. How about support for single dads? Women were all about equality until some dads said they were their children’s primary care giver and they wanted sole custody. Women always want to be equal, until they want to be more than equal.

    I worked as a contractor in the office of a woman. We were short staffed and there were open positions to be filled. But she would not fill them, even though she had interviewed several qualified men. Seems she was holding out to give the job to a “deserving” woman, and would hold the job open until one applied. Had that been a man holding out to hire another man, he’d be risking a lawsuit.

    I worked for another woman who seemed to have a real problem when older men were assigned to her. Her assignments were always unclear and delivered in a condescending manner, and she was never happy with the report she requested, you could only tell you’d done a pretty good job by how small the knit she knitpicked. I thought it was just me, but much later I mentioned to another older guy that she had announced she was moving on. He volunteered that he had exactly the same problem, and another guy told me she dumped on him, too. If this had been a guy dumping on one woman after another, it would not have been tolerated. But a guy going to HR saying I’ve got a sexist boss who always singles out the men working for her for abuse? Well, that kind of abuse doesn’t happen, right?

  51. As for your second point, about it being considered the domain of women, I complained about this a lot in the past. As a man, women’s groups are not terribly inviting. I remember the big women’s march years ago (like 2003?) that I helped with, all the talk was about women – and I mean DIRECTED AT WOMEN. It was all about what women could do to help, etc. As a guy I felt kind of left out. And it’s more than feeling left out. Guys have an interest in reproductive choice as well, as I doubt a lot of men want to accidentally have a kid if they don’t really want one. I think the messaging needs to change on this point too.

  52. Yep, that was something I think Ellen raised below – about how most gays are at least on the side of other gays.

  53. FLL says:

    Whenever someone demands that you change the way the English language works, that’s a really big red flag: they’re demanding that you kiss their ass. The English prefix “non” has worked just fine for centuries, and the attempt to “revise” the English language by replacing “non-trans” with “cisgender” is simply a demand that you jump through hoops for someone’s amusement. Jumping through hoops is never a wise choice.

  54. DonG90806 says:

    I forget — wasn’t it King Solomon in the Bible who had 700 wifes (and 300 concubines because god likes to round up)? And didn’t the Bible give instructions on how to treat your slaves and what to do with the slave’s wife when the slave died?

  55. BeccaM says:

    I know. I saw one statistic that said only 8% of those seeking an abortion didn’t use contraception, and by implication, nearly all of them were foolish teen-age girls who probably had to endure ‘abstinence-only’ sex-ed.

  56. BeccaM says:

    Yes — this, exactly.

    Nearly all of the most damaging anti-gay voices who happen to be gay themselves are the deeply closeted cases who are externalizing and projecting their own internal conflict and guilt. Once they come out of the closet — or are outed by rent-boys or wide-stance bathroom arrests — nearly all of them disappear and become irrelevant.

    But we have women in positions of prominence, like Dowd. And Malkin, Coulter, and the ‘bubble-headed bleach-blondes’ (thank you Don Henley) on Fux News. Or in politics like Bachmann, Palin and the rest, who use their influence to undermine the dignity and rights of other women.

  57. karmanot says:


  58. karmanot says:

    There is another point: Carter failed to support the Equal Rights Amendment and is ultimately responsible for its failure.

  59. BeccaM says:

    Men don’t need an organization to promote the advancement of men in government, because they still pretty much run it. Just look at Congress: In the House, there are currently 362 men and 76 women. In the Senate, there are 17 women and 83 men. Of the Fortune 500 companies — five hundred top corporations — only 18 are run by women.

    In absolutely no arena — social, governmental, or business — are men in any danger whatsoever of being squeezed out or excluded, and certainly not in the systematic way women have been excluded for centuries. We’ve had the right to vote for less than 100 years here in America — 1920, to be exact. Less than fifty years before that, the right of women to own property in the U.S. was the law in only a handful of states. Not so many decades before that, we were considered chattel property.

    Hell, I’m old enough to remember when it was considered controversial how some churches were removing the line “love, honor, and obey” from the bride’s wedding vows.

    Come back to us when Viagra is being outlawed as being “against God’s will that a man be impotent” and maybe we can talk about women getting permanent ‘special’ rights.

  60. karmanot says:

    WTF? We don’t do ‘victim’ on this site and we don’t overreach, we achieve full civil rights and bear the cost if it.

  61. MyrddinWilt says:

    Perhaps the likes of Dowd have something to do with it:


    If she was a Lesbian talking about gays we would call her a self-hater. Women who get to top positions are unfortunately less likely to promote women than men. Thatcher was the only woman in her cabinet.

  62. oh, don’t bother engaging with him on all of that. He’s beyond help or logic.

  63. karmanot says:

    Excellent. comment I receive the ire of many when I say that Arizona is a case in study for fascism evolving. in America, second only to Michigan. City states like Phoenix and Tucson may be its only hope.

  64. BeccaM says:

    Women do not seek out abortion as a preferred means of contraception.

  65. karmanot says:


  66. karmanot says:


  67. karmanot says:

    It was very inarticulate. I was mulling over the concept that the women’s movement in all of its feminist complexity was once its own unique force, but now seems dependent on Obot Demos to gain any traction. Except for the Lilly leadbetter law, there doesn’t seem to be a political power that is not allied to Obama/Clinton corporatists these days. Where are the federal challenges to abortion laws and voting suppression? The Obama DOJ is DOA. “Without the feminist movement, gay rights would have been unthinkable” I agree the two are inexorably linked and GLTB communities need to support feminist suffrage.

  68. Ellen Gaines says:

    John, it is so much worse than you maybe even realize:


    LA: http://laist.com/2012/09/08/one_womans_tale_of_harassment_on_th.php

    DC: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/therootdc/post/street-harassment-time-for-women-to-talk-back/2012/07/23/gJQAPXJt4W_blog.html


    These links are just what I could find in a 30 second Google search. This is a problem that is getting worse and worse. It is a horrific and terrifying epidemic. And a very silent one. Nobody even knows about it except women who walk and use public transport, and the men who hang out on sidewalks and take public transport.

    It is shameful and embarrassing for feminist leaders to not take this on as an issue. What are they doing with their million dollar budgets? Why do they only service the needs of married middle-aged women who have money? What does NOW do with its vast membership network? Where is all the money going? What exactly does it achieve? Who holds them accountable? No one.

    Here’s another issue that feminist leaders neglect: My neighbor is a 65 year old single, retired woman who had to move because she was getting followed by some jerk every time she left her home. She has very little money and is worried about finding a retirement community for herself that she can afford and where she’ll get some decent quality of care. Nobody ever talks about lower income elderly women and offers them any options on how to make it in their old age safely and without humiliation or neglect. My neighbor is terrified and alone. A candlelight vigil or yet another reading of the Vagina Monologues is not going to find her an affordable place to stay where she’ll be safe. Why haven’t feminists addressed the problems and challenges that elderly women face? Ms Steinem is pretty old herself. But she’ll never have to worry about how other older women will make it.

    Most feminist leaders are a bunch of useless fatcats getting rich off the lecture circuit and from writing books about gender constructs and what not that are sold in millions to universities’ women studies programs. They have abandoned any woman who is not middle-class, white, college-educated and white-collar.

  69. BeccaM says:

    I’m a little older than you, and I suspect my school district somewhat more progressive in that by time I hit high school, “home economics” was merely a cooking class, and both boys and girls took that as well as a trimester each of metal and wood shop.

    But it was controversial, and I remember how several parents objected to their boys being taught a ‘girl’ class. And sadly, I also remember some of my female classmates complaining about having to take shop, saying they missed the “old Home-Ec” their older sisters told them about.

    I think it’s the women these girls grew up to become that explains much of why women’s rights have regressed where they haven’t been stagnant.

  70. seriously. “The poor little victim”?

  71. actually, a popular argument against gay marriage is that it threatens children and hurts society as a whole.

  72. karmanot says:

    John, I wouldn’t take your down arrow critics of all stripes too seriously. You have a loyal following of troll busters here who got your back even when we don’t agree. :-)

  73. excellent point.

  74. BeccaM says:

    One thing I’d give anything to see: GOP gerrymandering turning into the party’s own petard for hoisting. Many of their districts are just barely Republican-dominant, it’d only take a swing of single-digit percentage to turn most of them Dem.

    Sadly, I’m not enamored of what the Dems would do with a solid governing majority either…

  75. davids12 says:

    … Huh? Was this supposed to be a reply to my post? I don’t see how it applies.

  76. BeccaM says:

    …and Nixon like a communist.

  77. Skeptical Cicada says:


  78. BeccaM says:

    I’ll probably respond at length later on when I’ve had time to digest this post, but one thing did occur to me right off the bat: There aren’t very many gay people working to undermine gay rights, I mean, not as organized anti-gay advocacy groups.

    There are, however, lots of women working very hard to undermine our rights as women. Some for religion or ideology, some out of pure self-interest.

  79. caphillprof says:

    1) The sea change on gay rights has accellerated recently, but has a long, long time line.

    2) There is more cohesiveness among gay people on gay issues than there ever were among women on womens issues. I’ve always marveled that it was leftist women who fought the fight for equality and yet it was more often than not Republican women who received the benefits.

    3) Most gay people support gay rights and very few gay people oppose gay rights. This is not true of women regarding womens rights. Phyllis Schlaffly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment and women never made a comeback.

    4) Economics divides women more than it has divided the gay movement. Wealth did not insulate gay folk as much as it does women. Wealthy women have reproductive freedom and worldwide access to abortion. Not so the middle class, nor the poor. Yet there is no solidarity across the class lines in the womens movement.

    5. I have known many, many gay men who in terms of family, jobs, career and wealth are natural, traditional Republican voters and yet for decades, because of the marked hostility of the GOP and its office holders have voted for Democrat, after Democrat, after Democrat at all election levels–local, state and national. I don’t see many women who are natural, traditional Republican voters based on family, jobs, career and wealth who vote against even the most mysognist of anti-women Republican candidates. (They may do so in the voting booth, but the bumper stickers on their cars show them as loyal Republicans.)

    6. The womens movement has been remiss in not reaching out to women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. We got an Orange County woman to vote for Obama this past year after giving her an extensive history lesson on the fact the states used to prohibit contraceptives. She had no notion of this past and that some of this Republican tomfollery was actually not so impossible.

  80. KathyP says:

    Thank you.

  81. karmanot says:

    “I think it is easy for any minority activist to overreach, to not just ask for equality, but for special privileges.””I suspect as gay equality moves forward, we’ll see the same overreach….” This is the classic propagandist talking-point argument for the far right and is complete bull shit.

  82. karmanot says:

    Well done!

  83. karmanot says:


  84. karmanot says:

    Libertarians are basically sophists who hide their capitalist anarchy behind costumes of individualism and false liberty.

  85. karmanot says:

    “How long ago was “Atlas Shrugged” written?” This example just goes to show how dreck of the worst kind of mediocrity has been installed as the nadir of American exceptionalism.

  86. karmanot says:

    Feminism is democracy in its purest form. There can be NO compromise with those who deny women the right of self determination, and bodily integrity.

  87. karmanot says:

    The center has moved so far to the right thanks to Clinton and Obozo that it makes Eisenhower look liberal.

  88. karmanot says:

    “who might actually demand some sense and skill from a partner” Very perceptive. My guess is that most insecure straight males are envious and hate gays because, we as a group are

    considerably more skilled and attentive to our partners in matters amour.

  89. karmanot says:

    Unfortunately, this sentence makes you a dick: “This article did more to ruin women’s rights than anything else.”

  90. karmanot says:

    what straight people get up to is a major ick factor for me, but I would never consider denying them the right and never had to ‘evolve’ to do so, because of an innate gratitude for my parents.

  91. karmanot says:


  92. karmanot says:

    Yet, women bought into Obama as the lesser evil, hook line and sinker.

  93. KathyP says:

    This is perplexing question, and the comments all have made good points. I noticed that your original post said nothing about the regression of workers’ rights. Ellen Gaines’ comment about it being a socioeconomic issue strikes me as being the common thread between the loss of workers’ rights and women’s reproductive rights. “Blue collar” workers have suffered the greatest erosion of workplace self determination, and the same is true for women of less affluence. They have the greatest difficulty accessing decent contraceptive information and reproductive health care, thus limiting their self determination. As another commenter, Darwin Woodka, pointed out, women living in more “liberal” communities (more affluent and educated) where reproductive rights are not as threatened, may lack the motivation to fight to regain lost ground.

    Another problem I see with whatever “women’s movement” remains is that it is considered the domain of women, not both women and men. Maybe I’m just lucky, but my sexual partners been as concerned as I about our ability to determine if and when we wanted children. I recall seeing nearly as many men as women at the March for Women’s Lives in DC in 2004. You can bet my husband was there!

    We have a lot to learn from the success of the gay rights movement.

  94. karmanot says:

    I really don’t think there is a left anymore, at least one I recognize.

  95. karmanot says:

    “I think that 90% of the hate comes from the closeted gays/bisexuals.” “the original target of the raid was the mafia operators of the bar,” WTF? You weren’t there were you? What utter BS.

  96. karmanot says:

    America is a nation version of a psychopathic individual: a deadly mixture of violence as entertainment, misogyny, and perverted hypocrisy. All my women friends constantly reveal that they do not feel safe anywhere in America and are on constant alert in parking lots, city streets, virtually anywhere unknown men are about.

  97. karmanot says:

    I couldn’t agree more that this is primarily a class issue and calls for ( dare I say it) Marxist sensibilities. Nothing is more corrosive to the Democratic party than comfortable bourgeois corporatists functionaries clutching their wealth at the cost of healthy labor gains.

  98. karmanot says:

    Exactly, waste time clutching pearls and the swine will jump ahead.

  99. condew says:

    I think it is easy for any minority activist to overreach, to not just ask for equality, but for special privileges. I saw this early in the feminist movement on the subject of rape. The argument was that it was just too hard for the poor little victim to show up in court, so the man should be denied his basic American right to face his accuser. I remember one woman actually screeming on a TV show that all men are rapists, just some haven’t been caught yet. So a woman gets raped, a man goes to prison, and it doesn’t really matter if it was the right man.

    Then there is the matter of a “hostile workplace environment”. Most of the women just want to be one of the guys, just another member of the team. Then we have the Adria Richards of the world who claim the right to destroy any man’s career over a comment they consider offensive; doesn’t matter if they were eavesdropping on a conversation, doesn’t matter if an unbiased observer would not have found the comment particularly offensive. Women like Aria are adamant that their right to not be offended trumps the rights of all those around them to free speech. Then they wonder why they never feel like one of the team, and they are oblivious to the hostile work environment they create for the men they work with.

    There is also the tendency to consider temporary remedial laws as permanent new rights. So we have efforts to encourage women in engineering with special programs to help girls in math and science. As the number of women in the college engineering programs equals and then exceeds the number of men, will these programs be opened to boys? I doubt it. Similarly, when the number of men and women in a business are close to equal, should there still be brownie points for hiring another woman? If a woman starts a small business and only hires woman, is that laudable or a case of rampant discrimination?

    I accept equality in an algebraic sense. If male=female, then you should be able to change between them in any sentence. So why is it OK to have an organization to promote the advancement of women in government, but not a similar organization to promote the advancement of men in government?

    I suspect as gay equality moves forward, we’ll see the same overreach and the movement will stumble in similar ways. That guy outside the Supreme Court in a transparent red mesh leotard bears watching.

  100. Brown Gay Al says:

    There is a real difference between gay marriage and abortion. Gay marriage doesn’t hurt anybody but abortion involves terminating the fetus/baby. You may think that the baby does not have life but most others recoil at abortion as a means of birth control. That’s the difference here. Gay marriage is not relevant to anyone outside of the 2 people involved but there is a potential new life in abortion.

  101. Hate crimes against women abound, but they are so widespread, common, and often socially sanctioned (marital rape, etc.) that many men AND women don’t even recognize them as such. That’s why they don’t get as much press and notice. When a man rapes or beats a woman, he is expressing a hatred of her gender. It happens so often that it’s not even news.

  102. Steve_in_CNJ says:

    Good point. NARAL is all over the map and not easily characterized as inflexible. They seem to have caught the HRC disease. Recall that the Human Rights Campaign endorsed anti-choice d”Amato over Schumer in 1998.

  103. MsRose says:

    I think it’s down to the fact that the only group in the world who really wants to limit the rights of others is the heterosexual male. I think gay rights have moved on because straight guys aren’t affected by them at the end of the day. It’s a whole different story if ‘the little lady’ gets ideas above her station, eh? I mean, hubby might have to feed himself and do his own laundry if his female partner ever gets TRUE equal status in his world.

  104. Lesley says:

    I see what you’re saying, but when you discuss more visible signs of mistreatment of those in the LBGTQ community, and you listed hate crimes, I have to say that discounts rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and many other forms of harassment that women face every single day but usually never makes the news. I live in Phoenix, AZ where crazy anti-women laws are passed seemingly every week. There is little public outcry. But when the city of Phoenix wanted to pass a city ordinance protecting the rights of the LBGTQ community, people came out in support in droves. I am exceedingly happy for the now more quick moving advancement of gay rights, but it does sting to see progressives and liberals so engaged and hyper focused on this issue, but so fragmented and disjointed on the very serious attack on women’s liberty and our very right to our own bodies. So thank you for putting this out there because it has needed to be addressed and no one is talking about. I think it’s because no one wants to take away from the much needed changes in equality for the LBGTQ community, but it’s hard to not feel like progressives are divided into too many camps. Hopefully, this will spark a lot of dialogue and more movement forward for both groups and a sense that there needs to be solidarity in the equality movement. All of us equal. Once and for all. Thank you.

  105. Jacob Cooper says:

    This article did more to ruin women’s rights than anything else. If you are still making distinctions between a man and a woman then you are putting them backwards. Gay rights has moved forward so rapidly because their overall message has been “we are people and want to be treated as such”. With the media celebrating these ridiculous, over the top, women’s rights supporters, it’s no wonder things are moving backwards. Just treat all people like people and don’t be a dick.

  106. Naja pallida says:

    The ‘Libertarian’ wing, namely the various Pauls – Ron, Rand and Ryan – wouldn’t know real libertarianism if it bit them on the ass. They’re just hard right-wing, pseudo-intellectual, corporatist Republicans. They’ve co-opted the term libertarian, and somehow managed to fool a lot of people into agreeing with their inanity, but don’t have much in common with say, Mencken.

  107. Skeptical Cicada says:

    The supposed hypersensitivity isn’t hypersensitivity at all. Rather, it is a misguided attempt to somehow self-victimize oneself to equality.

    And it’s certainly not general concern for being sensitive to diversity, as was made quite apparent from the effort to shove “cisgender” down our throats as our supposed identity without any input from us.

  108. Thanks Liz :) It rambled a bit, was written late last night, but thought it was worth venturing into.

  109. Laurel_Hardy says:

    Misogyny > Homophobia? I think to some extent the word gay is perceived as referring to gay MEN. Gay men are still male, lesbians a gay and women, so TWO strikes against them. And the GOP just doesn’t seem to know how to operate without a group to demonize and they’re too scared to name black people even though it’s clear that is their beef against Obama. They have two wings: one that will throw fresh meat to the wolves, the other ARE the wolves. In this case, Evangelical Christians may hate faggots on God’s behalf, but nothing is more troubling, more challenging than an educated, independent woman (who might actually demand some sense and skill from a partner).

  110. I grew up in the 70s and I think most of us from that time assume these battles for women’s rights are already won. It’s just that the right keeps fighting them and trying to take them back piecemeal. We aren’t as affected by the restriction on abortion rights in liberal areas, so aren’t motivated to fight the battle in those places that are going backwards. Plus there is a general protective/permissive cycle in generations and keeping up with those swings through the years is its own battle.

  111. Liz Newcomb says:

    Great post, John.

  112. I was just informed on Twitter that this post is evidence that I’m anti-women. I expected someone to pull that card eventually.

    And this is another part of the larger problem on the left – not just on women’s issues. I’m safe writing about gay issues, relatively, though I was accused of hating promiscuity the other day when writing about the meningitis outbreak in NYC. And even on gay-ish issues, like AIDS (IT’S NOT A GAY ISSUE), bisexuality (apparently I hate them all and set their movement back every time I mention them, like now), transgender issues (wrong word choice, bring up topics and questions that aren’t permitted, and more generally my writing suffers from being authored by a gay white male), I’m bound to either have an opinion, ask a question, use a word, or touch on a topic that one-simply-does-not-do in polite progressive company.

    Writing about race isn’t terribly safe either, and same goes for women’s issues.

    I’m not sure about the environment, guns, anod other issues, if the same hyper-scrutiny applies.

    But if the perception is that it’s not safe to even talk about these issues – and same goes for straight people talking about gay issues, I suspect, I’m sure we’ve made it a PC minefield for them – does that help or harm our movement going forward? In some ways it’s helped gays, by teaching people that being anti-gay is really bad. But in other ways, I find some gay people who refuse to tolerate stupid questions from legitimately interested straight people. Their initial impulse is to slam the person, rather than recognize that the person is being sincere, wants to learn more, might be open to supporting us more, and just needs a non-judgmental guide who isn’t going to rip their head off for asking the wrong question, or worse, having the wrong opinion. Having said that, it hasn’t held us back too much as our movement is moving forward. Though perhaps it’s because we’re excelling in other areas.

    But I started thinking about this more because of what Ellen, below, wrote about women not being able to criticize their own groups.

  113. psyspace says:

    Is it possible that America is moving in a more centrist direction rather than a “progressive” direction. It appears to me that issues that are more centrist in nature such as marriage equality and immigration reform (clearly issues that if you look beyond frank bigotry have considerable conservative appeal) have been doing well where more “progressive” issues such as entitlements, poverty, and various forms of banking and economic reform are not doing very well. It is unclear to me where on the spectrum of centrist to progressive doe women’s reproductive rights and abortion rights fall.

  114. And also interesting, Ellen, I didn’t even realize that lots of women still get groped in public. I figured that was something from the 80s. In part this is about education, it seems. Simply educating the public that a lot of these bizarre problems – meaning, when you hear about them today you’re struck because they seem so antiquated and bizarre, something you didn’t realize was still a problem – still exist, a lot.

  115. Mary O'Grady says:

    NARAL is not the greatest example because their Beltway leadership has done some exceptionally dumb things, such as endorsing Sen. Lieberman. That in particular alienated many progressive-minded longtime supporters of theirs.

  116. Drew2u says:

    Unfortunately I have to agree with you. I see the Paulies, both daddy and son, as either liars or delusional. I believe that daddy’s really playing a shell-game in order to not pay any taxes himself while his ideology turned into dogma with his son (as demonstrated by the now-infamous Rachel Maddow interview in which he argues against the 14th amendment).
    Sadly, I don’t see many Democrats trying to bring in the young libertarians who are more focused on getting out of overseas wars (leave other countries alone), marriage equality (leave other people alone), and marijuana legalization (leave me alone) which does not bode well for the party or for liberals if they can’t get their act together.
    That’s why I’m worried about the gay rights movement and – while it’s a situation where it’d be nice to dismantle the movement due to no more discrimination – the women’s rights and african-american’s rights movements prove otherwise. The biggest advantage those two groups have, though, is education on the historical path those two groups have traveled down. There is no such option for the gay rights movement, which is in danger of falling into ignorance/apathy from future generations.

  117. Mary O'Grady says:

    How true. The “ick” factor. Funny how that never seems to come up, when it comes to what straight people get up to.

  118. MyrddinWilt says:

    I think that 90% of the hate comes from the closeted gays/bisexuals. I don’t think that they would get half as wound up about men having sex with men if they weren’t at least bi-curious and ashamed/frightened of it.

    In the wake of Stonewall and similar events, gays started to become pro-gay. Freddy Mercury and co made it hip to be gay. Attacking other gays to hide the fact they were in the closet was no longer a viable strategy. It made them traitors and the worse the attacks of the bigots, the worse the traitor.

    The history of Stonewall is not the quite same as the myth, but myths are powerful. And even if the original target of the raid was the mafia operators of the bar, it is clear from reports that the police who showed up had a different target.

  119. Ellen Gaines says:

    John, I would also argue that women’s rights leaders are stuck in the 50s and are excessively focused on fighting battles from the 50s. They’re not paying attention to new problems that urban women face as we work outside the home and take public transport and walk or run outdoors or on public streets. How many women have been sexually harassed on streets? How many women endure harassment, groping and sexual assault on public transport? You don’t hear a peep from Gloria Steinem or Hillary Clinton about the millions of women who are made to feel intimidated and afraid every day for doing nothing more than taking a public bus or subway to work and back. You don’t hear women’s studies majors going on candlelight vigils for women like me who are mocked, followed, groped, borderline sexually assaulted every day for years on public buses and subways. Why is this?

    I’d also argue that this is a socioeconomic class issue. Women like me who are grunts and lower down in the socioeconomic hierarchy don’t count for anything in women’s rights organizations. But married, white collar, college educated, middle-class and upper middle-class women’s voices are consistently heard and their priorities consistently emphasized. They want abortion rights. So those become a priority. They can afford to have cars and so they drive and completely miss the daily horrors of walking and public transport. So street harassment and harassment of women in public spaces doesn’t matter to the leaders of NOW and the Feminist Majority. They are focused on having more women CEOs so a ton of research on corporate culture and gender gets funding. How many studies are done on working class environments and gender? Does anyone care?

    As someone going thru a divorce process, I was shocked to learn that divorce often results in the woman becoming significantly poorer. How come Eve Ensler hasn’t written a play on socioeconomic class and women? Probably because the leaders of the women’s movement simply do not focus on the problems and concerns that working class women face. The only one to do so was Barbara Ehrenreich and she’s not a mainstream feminist leader.

    I find that women’s rights leaders are way more interested in sensationalism that ultimately achieves nothing. What is a reading of the Vagina Monologues actually achieve? Besides a momentary burst of feel-good, yay sisterhood euphoria, how many rapes are prevented by it? How many men actually stop themselves from groping a woman on a subway because she went to a reading of The Vagina Monologues? How many women got a decent raise at work simply from attending a reading of this play?

    My point is that the current women’s rights leadership is bullshit. And their strategies are bullshit. Changing the spelling of ‘women’ to ‘womyn’, candlelight vigils for womanhood, earnest discussions about gender constructs…what do they actually achieve apart from preaching the same old same old to the choir? You’re closer to getting rights to marry. Many companies now will not fire you simply for being gay. Your side knows how to fight to win. My side sits around in feminist bookstores and talks about their moon time. And I still get groped while taking the bus. If I sound disgusted with NOW, Feminist Majority and glorious leaders like Eve Ensler and Gloria Steinem, it’s because I am.

    But unlike gay men, I’m not allowed to voice this opinion because feminist women have an almost slavish respect for their leaders. I daily read angry comments against GLAAD and HRC. I have heard a lot of anger from gay men towards Obama for not doing enough. While people vociferously disagreed with them, their voices were not shut down. If you’re a woman and a feminist and you dislike what the current feminist leadership is doing, you’re shut out and shut down.

    This sketch from Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia sums up how useless and pointless the current feminist movement is:

  120. nicho says:

    The right wing is very adept at playing one oppressed group against another. I remember well when AIDS activists were fighting for their lives (literally) and the criminally cynical Bush (I) administration suddenly discovered breast cancer and made women and AIDS activists compete for the same research and care dollars. Now, we see the fractures within the gay community over trans rights. Women vs gays. Blacks vs. gays. Gays vs undocumented immigrants. And so on and so on and so on. It’s all planned.

  121. nicho says:

    First in your class in Idiot School, I presume.

  122. MyrddinWilt says:

    I think the ‘Libertarian’ wing will become dominant. It won’t believe in any rights other than the right to own a gun and to use wealth to exploit other people but they will claim to have been for equality and legalization of abortion and pot all along. Just like they swept the southern strategy under the rug, they will do the same with the culture war.

    By the time they recover people will have forgotten about Bush’s fiscal crisis created by deregulation and they might be willing to risk another round of the same.

  123. davids12 says:

    I think to some extent it’s difficult to disentangle the two. Both fight against rigid gender roles defining what people can and can’t do. Without the feminist movement, gay rights would have been unthinkable.

    Because of that, I think some of the reason that women are moving backwards is that the inevitable backlash against gay rights advancements get retargeted on them, particularly in states where the gay rights movement can’t move any farther backwards. It’s not like Alabama can ban gay marriage again, but they certainly can chip away at what conservative legislators there perceive as a different attack on “traditional” gender roles, namely, a woman’s right to make reproductive choices.

  124. I remember that post.

    I was on a week-long school trip to DC in 1986 — high-school seniors from all over the country were there for visits to Congress, etc. Girls were forbidden from wearing pants, at all, for the entire week. We *had* to wear skirts. It still makes me angry to think about this.

  125. Steve_in_CNJ says:

    Title IX (1972) was another early victory of the feminist movement. When you’re farther behind, as women were in 1972, you can accept partial victories. Nowadays, women’s rights groups like NARAL are entrenched and polarized. They may have lost flexibility and message control because of this entrenchment as much as because the issues have become more nuanced.

  126. I’ll have to find my post about 1989 when I was traveling with a congressional delegation and the male deputy at the US mission in West Berlin told Bob Dole’s arms control staffer, a woman, that perhaps she’d be more comfortable going shopping for the day with the senators’ wives while the rest of us held our arms control meetings. He kept insisting she go shopping, even after she explained repeatedly that she was Bob Dole’s defense and arms control adviser. Blew my mind.

  127. Interesting point – in the same way that younger gays don’t remember AIDS, they didn’t live it, younger women didn’t live in an era when abortion was illegal.

  128. I don’t think so. Americans love sex privately, publicly they’re against it. If anything, ‘sex’ has held gay rights back for decades, as America waved its naughty finger at us.

  129. Excellent point about most gays being pro-gay. Although, and certainly in the past, a lot of gays were closeted, so not necessarily helpful, though sometimes. Also we had a good number of closeted gays working for the other team. And a few public ones undercutting us on Fox, or pretending to be “ex-gays”. Though I still think you’re right, at the moment at least, versus 30 years ago, our team is more unified. Though again the question is ‘why?”.

    Also, it’s funny you mention “white men.” I was starting to think about that last night when writing this. When I was writing about how the women’s movement is run by women, i was almost going to write that the gay movement has been run by white men, mostly for decades. And while some of the more modern oppression-studies crowd find it au courant to bash everything gay white males do, I was thinking about this point last night, that there’s a good argument to be made that gays wouldn’t be where they are today but-for gay white men.

    And very interesting about questioning the group. While it’s true that our groups are less sacrosanct to our own than women’s groups are to women, we certainly got a lot of crap for going after the groups and the party, in some sectors. A lot. But, we also got a lot of support. I’d never thought about that, that women’s groups in the women’s movement are held up higher than gay groups in our movement,.

  130. Drew2u says:

    I would agree with you only to the extent that there are Young Republican clubs in high schools. Just because those entities may not be around in a decade’s time, doesn’t mean the principles won’t be around. How long ago was “Atlas Shrugged” written?

  131. MyrddinWilt says:

    Rupert Murdoch is 82. Roger Ailes is 72. The GOP lie machine needs both of them to function.

    Lying Rupert is more likely than not to be dead within 7 years. Ailes is younger but he is obese and his ability to hold down a high stress job is likely to end sooner. Either or both could be incapacitated by strokes or other health issues.

    And don’t forget that Rupert is a lying weasel who will back any politician if it makes him a buck. Rupert switched from Tory to Labour when it looked like the Tories would be out of office for a decade and only switched back when they recovered.

    In ten years time John and I will both be late middle aged angry white men. Isn’t that the core Faux News demographic? Do you really think that in ten years time Wingnut News is going to be as profitable as it is today? Most of their core demographic will be in pine boxes in the whites only sections of the cemetery. Most of their talent will have followed Glenn Beck and created their own $100/year subscription channels. There will still be enough wingnuts left willing to pay money to keep those enterprises going but they will be arguing amongst themselves in a corner.

    Murdoch’s Sun flipped left when it suited the Murdoch family pocket and so will Faux News. They are all self-servatives first.

  132. FLL says:

    The question you’re posing really involves at least two very different issues: abortion rights and non-discrimination. Women’s rights have been chipped away primarily in the area of abortion rights, not in the area of non-discrimination. If anything, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 represents a further advance of non-discrimination legislation for women. The recent advances for gay rights have also been in the area of non-discrimination: equal access to the military, marriage equality, protection from hate crimes and state-level ENDAs.

    I think there is a qualitative difference in support for abortion rights and support for non-discrimination. Many Americans who have always supported legal abortion will also qualify their support with any number of negative statements: “abortion should, ideally, be rare,” “contraception should be promoted to reduce the need for abortion” or “abortion is never the ideal solution.” If you take those same qualifications and plug them into a statement about non-discrimination, the resulting statement is absurd:

    Equality and non-discrimination are never ideal, and other alternatives are always preferable.

    Everyone (other than bigots) regards equality and non-discrimination as an ideal to strive for, but the same is not true of abortion. On top of this is the fact that although almost all women are in favor of women’s equality, many women, particularly religious women, are opposed to legalized abortion. This means that American women present a more or less united front regarding equality and non-discrimination but remain divided regarding abortion.

  133. Bill_Perdue says:

    The attack on women’s rights remains the attack on the right to free, federally funded abortions on demand irrespective of age and the right to an abortion under any circumstances. As they perceive that they’re losing the war against marriage equality – and they most certainly haven’t lost yet and won’t until DOMA and state DOMAs are knocked down by the supremes – they will concentrate their fire on women and minorities.

    The response of the LGBT communities to attacks on abortion rights should be supportive and principled, making compromise with anti-abortion cultists or politicians or either party. Feminists in particular and women in general are our natural allies and we have the same enemies. We need to do much more in terms of alliance building.

  134. Kes says:

    Equal marriage rights don’t require anything from the straight population. Those of us who are straight aren’t being asked to give up anything.
    But with women’s issues, most of the problems we face can be traced back to male entitlement and male violence. Every time a statistic goes up on a billboard about how many people (male and female) are subjected to sexual assault, it’s a demand/request that the male population do a bit of self-examination. Every time somebody brings up how, with all other factors controlled, women still make less than men based solely on gender, there is a population of men who feels threatened.
    After the marriage issue is won, when the primary issues become the violence against members of the LGBT communities, discrimination in hiring and housing, and the nasty snideness of everyday bigotry and homophobia, then expect to see the sudden whiplash and loss of ground that’s characterized the fight for women’s rights for the past 30 years.

  135. Drew2u says:

    Sort of like the whole Komen v. Planned Parenthood fiasco?

    “How DARE you fight against something stopping Breast Cancer!” /pearl-clutch

  136. Drew2u says:

    I’d agree with that except how the GOP lies its face off. As long as they can make up enough pretty lies (“Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Death-panels!”) to maintain a majority hold, they can enact whatever legislation they want, then turn around and say they didn’t do it. Say that loud enough and enough people will believe it to vote for them again.
    Watching Republican/Conservative/ConservaDem policies affecting America is like watching a consensual snuff film.

  137. I had to fight to take a shop class in the 1980s. And then I was harrassed to the point of dropping out by the rest of the class (which was all male except for me), which the (male) teacher did nothing to stop.

    It’s not that long ago.

  138. Ellen Gaines says:

    John, you missed something crucial: Most gay people are very very pro gay rights. Many women are afraid, embarrassed and ashamed to loudly and clearly take a stand for their own rights. Gay people are unafraid and unabashed to take a stand for their rights. Many, many women do not do that for fear that someone will call them feminazis or man-hating harpies. It’s common place to attack feminist women as crazy, shrill people who hate men and want to emasculate them.

    The fight for gay rights has largely been championed by white men who are highly skilled at verbal combat and strategy. The fight for women’s rights is largely championed by white women who believe in an imaginary sisterhood and common bond that supposedly exists among all women even as conservative pro-life women easily and volubly loathe them.

    This is ultimately a total failure by the current feminist leadership. Their tactics are clearly not working. Another marked difference between gay activists and women’s activists is that gay activists are not afraid to publicly and privately challenge the authority of Big Gay PR like GLAAD and the HRC, like you and Joe did. When was the last time you saw a woman activist challenge the antiquated and stunningly ineffective strategy of Gloria Steinem and NOW? To even broach this idea is heresy. Try saying something about changing on establishment feminism and trying to actually win something for a change. Your local women’s studies majors will ostracize you as an agent of the enemy. They will not question whether the strategy of Big Feminism like NOW and the Feminist Majority actually helps them.

    Feminist women dare not question the authority of their feminist leaders. Feminist women don’t even take on conservative women the way most liberal male gay activists are ruthless in attacking GOProud and the Log Cabiners In short, liberal gay men play to win. Liberal women play to be liked.

    Change will only come once feminist women resolve to change their own excessive reverence for old and outdated strategy, and for old and outdated leadership. Gay men hold their leaders far more accountable than women do. Because gay men are way more interested in fighting smartly and winning. Feminist women are still way too focused on being martyrs. That’s why they put up with absolutely ineffective leaders, strategy and representation.

  139. Duh Obvious says:

    It’s because gay rights are about the right to have sex. Everybody is pro-sex.

  140. It is because Women tend to be more liberal and they tend to vote. Women are the key behind gay rights. Once their rights are curtailed, glbtq rights will be next on the chopping block along with racial minority rights. Don’t forget they are going after the voting rights of blacks and latinos as well.

  141. TheOriginalLiz says:

    I think it’s a memory issue. I was born in the 50s. I remember not being able to take a shop class because I was “just going to get married, anyway”. I remember not having control over my reproductive functions, or much of anything else. Younger women, and men, don’t remember those days, so they aren’t as keenly aware of fragile progress being chipped away. I think there is a certain time frame when progress of any sort is most vulnerable – between the time the when the majority don’t remember having to fight for that right and the point at which it makes it in to our cultural history as a done deal. Women’s rights are in that window now, and we see the effect. In a decade, gay rights will also be in that window, and we may see the same sort of chipping away.

  142. MyrddinWilt says:

    There are two different layers. Virtually every sector of the population has become more socially liberal across the country over the past 12 years. The bastions of bigotry have shrunk and their defenders have become more desperate, more vocal and more vicious. So women’s rights have shrunk while support for women’s right have increased. In fact because support for women’s rights have increased.

    I suspect that is part of the reason that marriage equality has swung so far so fast. Less than five years ago we lost Prop 8 in California. Today a repeal would pass easily. That is in part surely a reaction against the nastiness of the GOP. Living in MA there is really nothing we can do about the antics in the bigot-belt electorally and virtually all of us in North Boston metro already had a full score card on women’s issues. The fact that the GOP is against marriage equality makes people think it has to be a good idea.

    The GOP position is backed up by a house of cards. Their mandate is shrinking and pretty soon they are going to see parts of their heartland turning purple. Florida is already purple, Texas might be next. Without at least one of the big five states or a NE state, a GOP president is not just unlikely, it is a mathematical impossibility. The GOP knows that which is why they are doubling down on the bigotry to squeeze the last vote out of their base and that is why they are pushing for yet more voter suppression, gerrymandering and poll rigging.

    It won’t help them very long. The GOP has pushed itself to a point where the only way their candidates can win primaries is by pushing bigoted policies that shrink their base and the only way they can win general elections is through fraud. Right now the country is about 55-45 Progressive-Conservative. Round about 60-40 an interesting point is reached as no amount of electoral fraud will buy a GOP House or Senate. The GOP will lose control of the statehouses necessary to maintain the gerrymandering and vote suppression. There will be federal election standards passed. And then all of a sudden the GOP will be fighting for its life even in the old South.

  143. Drew2u says:

    That’s it: if gays are better at messaging, just create the GFP: The Gay-Fabulous Party that focuses on equality and fairness for all persons, a robust health plan & education system, a fast transportation & infrastructure program, and designer & trend tips for all!

    All kidding aside, I do see a gay rights movement in danger of fracturing and disappearing due to the lack of knowledge on the history of gays by the younger people, in part by how successful it is in creating the blind acceptance of friends/family. When I say younger people, I was born in the mid-80s, I was in elementary school with DOMA/DADT. A LOT has changed during that period for the good, but I don’t know much and the kids I see today, while they have more options like the Trevor Project and It Gets Better, I don’t see much in the way of historical knowledge.

    And while “gays may be better at messaging”, it could call be reversed just like how the women’s rights movement on birth control is going.

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