Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Artistic Expression in the Form of a Gay Wedding Cake

According to a judge in California, a baker may deny services to a same-sex couple on the basis of sincerely held beliefs, because cake designing is an artistic expression which extends to the freedom of speech and religion. Therefore, the right to discriminate remains intact.

I was thinking about this. I previously owned a photography business, and photography was for me a form of artistic expression. I did not have "pre-made" photos, like a bakery might have pre-made goods. Everything I did was an extension of my subjective artistry and my freedom of expression. If someone came to me for photos, I took them. Old, young, fat, skinny, ugly, beautiful, religious, not religious, you name it. You wanted a picture taken, I was your gal.

Now, what if I had the sincerely held belief that Christians were bad people, and that sincerely held belief prevented me from interacting with them or providing professional services to them. That sounds silly, doesn't it? Or what if I had the sincerely held belief that Jesus and the Christian god were abominations, and that their existence caused pain and suffering. What if I held Christians on the same ethical level as con-artists, thieves, and abusers? What if I felt that interacting with them was morally wrong, and it would cause me emotional pain and psychological damage to provide services to them?

What if I had one of those beliefs, and a Christian family came to me for their family portraits. I would deny them services, politely of course, and recommend they find someone who is like them to take their photos. And then I'd go online and say something snotty like, today I was accosted by some horrible Christians who thought they could get me to take their family photos. But I didn't do it, I stood my ground, and I am proud of myself for keeping my beliefs and having the courage to stand up for what is right.

Now, this probably would never happen, or if it did, hold any weight. Why? Because I am a minority. The predominant ideology in the United States is Christianity. If I, as an atheist woman, denied them services, sure they would feel prosecuted, make a big stink about it, find some way to take me to court and win. But ultimately, they would have immense support, a thousand other photographers to go to, and not be hurt in the slightest by me denying them services. That's what it happens when you are the majority, and your enjoy a disproportionate privilege over others. That is what Christians in this country enjoy.

And because of that privilege, they are able to be selective about their business, services, associations, etc. All in the name of religious freedom and "sincerely held religious beliefs". All other ideologies and beliefs take a backseat to Christianity.

Christians are under the impression that they are somehow being attacked, or persecuted, or that their rights are being infringed upon. But that's not actually the case. There is no secret "gay agenda". There is no pervasive "atheist agenda". But there is a call for equal opportunity and representation. Having a sincerely held belief shouldn't remove you from being human and interacting with those who are different from you. What they are has no bearing on your personally. Offering your professional services to someone who believes something different from you, even if you don't agree with it, does not impede your freedom of religious expression. What it does is make you a decent human being.

I despise Christian ideology. It makes me sick to my stomach, and anytime I hear about someone using it as a copout or an excuse to discriminate (and yes, when you are selective about those you will serve based on their race, sexual preference, gender, or religion, you are discriminating), I am deeply disturbed. It's just an excuse, it's just an excuse so that you don't have to interact with someone who makes you uncomfortable. And that discomfort stems from an ideology forged in ignorance and perpetuated by the same. But even though I do not like Christianity, I will still interact with Christians. I will still have conversations with them, shop with them, read with them, walk with them, and take their portraits. Why? Because they are people. Just people. And I do not have the right to hate them just because they are different from me.

Religion should not be used as an excuse to hate. If anything, it should be used as an opportunity to love and to show love and understanding. What could that bakery possibly have stood to lose by offering their services to a gay couple? More business? A fostering of understanding and respect? A public display of Christian charity?

Now, there are things that are disturbing that people believe in, sincerely. And if they cause harm, we should not condone them. But two people of the same biological sex falling in love and getting married does not cause anyone any harm. And a bruised religious ego or homophobic discomfort is not harm, its just ignorance. Like I said above, so long as the predominant ideology is Christianity, there will be a disproportionate privilege associated with it. Including the privilege of discrimination.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

We Need More Boys in Dresses

I'm not much of a dress wearer, so it took a bit of effort for me to dawn a dress today to support my son who wanted to wear his dress.

Yep, you heard that right, my son.  He likes to blur the lines between masculine and feminine, as he is interested. Which means, some days he likes to wear a dress, some days it's princess shoes and his Flash t-shirt, and other days it's sweatpants and a tank top. He has a stuffed puppy that will sometimes wear a dress, and a supply of horses for his barn and Hotwheels for his track. His favorite tv shows include Doc McStuffins, The Magic School Bus, My Little Pony, Animal Mechanicals, and Rescue Bots. He loves Elsa and Gizelle, but he also loves Batman and The Flash.

He occupies that middle space between what our culture deems masculine and feminine, and he is happy there. I hope he will continue to be happy there.

It's interesting; when I was a little girl, I preferred sweatpants and baggy t-shirts. I would often sneak my brothers clothes to wear, and my favorite dress-up character was Han Solo (for which I needed my brother's suit vest....). My dad even bought me a genuine Han Solo Blaster. I hung out with boys mostly, I didn't have many girl friends. And I had a group of boy followers for many years, kind of like the little rascals. We did everything from collecting bugs, to smashing rocks, to exploring the wilderness. We even made bouncy balls out of volcanic ash and fresh tar (don't ask...) But no one ever thought it was unusual for me to wear boys clothing and be a rambunctious outdoor kid.

Now, I was expected to wear dresses and frilly socks for family gatherings and church meetings. And if I sat with my legs open, I was chastised for not being ladylike. My mother abhorred my burping, telling me I sounded like a drunken sailor. And I would get annoyed when my guy friends suggested I be the girl (like when we played Balto, they said I should be Jenna). But overall, my occupation of the gender middle space was not concerning to anyone. No one thought I was abnormal for being a "tomboy".

So why is it that we don't afford boys the same opportunity? There is a line in Orange is the New Black that struck me: "Why would he choose that? It's like winning the lottery and giving it back", says the assistant warden of the character Sophia, a transgender woman. Now, I can relate a little bit. Women are still second class citizens; we don't enjoy the power and privilege that men do. So when we hear of a man essentially giving up his power in that way, we are disturbed. But thinking of it in that way only empowers the oppressors. Women are not second class citizens, we are not the inferior or weaker sex. When a woman behaves in a masculine way, she presents with power. But when a man behaves in a feminine way, he presents weakness. Why is that? Why do we still equate femininity with weakness?

Gender norms and conditioning are socially constructed and responsive. This explains why there are many variations of what is considered masculine and feminine, and just how big of a chasm separates the two. In western culture, there is a significant and very obvious divide between what is considered masculine and feminine, and while it is becoming more acceptable for women to transgress the boundaries of feminine, men are still not afforded that opportunity. It is still strange to see a boy wanting to wear a dress. It is still strange if he wants to play with a doll or have his nails painted. But there is absolutely nothing objectively feminine about color on the nails, or pants versus a skirt. Before 1940 is was perfectly acceptable for boys to wear pink and have a frilly trim around their cuffs. In Victorian times, boys and girls were dressed in similar styles and both wore long hair. High heels were a statement of fashion and status for gentlemen at one point. But as western culture became more fearful of homosexuality, norms for boys changed, and intimate interactions with females and femininity were feared causes of becoming gay. Which anyone with an ounce of biological sense knows is not the case. A boy who interacts closely with his mother or his dolls will not "turn" gay. And if he is gay, there is nothing wrong or unnatural about that either. I like how one researcher put it: its like left-handedness, uncommon but NOT unnatural.

So why do we need more boys in dresses? Because we need to break down the social barriers that separate men and women. And we need to liberate men from the confines of toxic masculinity that force them to conform to an ideal that they can never achieve. Men have the same emotions as women, its high time we let them show it. Clothing should never be about gender conformity, but rather self-expression. And we shouldn't teach children that dresses are "girly" or "for girls". Dresses are items of clothing that can be worn by anyone who enjoys that airy and loose feeling, or who want to show legs, or be cooler, or who feel good in a dress. Just as pants are no longer reserved for just men, dresses should not be reserved for just women. And the more men and boys wear dresses, with such an obvious statement of non-gender conformity, other less obvious facets are sure to follow. The more boys cuddle with baby dolls and play house, the more natural nurturing and interpersonal relationships will be to men. The more boys take on traditionally female roles and activities, the more empathetic and understanding they will be of what it means to be feminine, and the more they will realize that those labels are subjective associations we humans make.

We need more boys in dresses the same way we needed girls to wear pants. We need to dismantle the gender scripts that govern our daily existence and just be people. And that is why my son is a hero.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Gun Control Using a Mormon Analogy

Mormons love parables :) Well, I guess it might be a universally Christian thing. But Mormons also believe that many of their doctrines are created with the weakest of saints in mind. If everyone was stalwart and true, the rules wouldn't be as strict because everyone would be good. Like the difference between the Law of Moses and Jesus' new commandments. If you're naughty, you get privileges for everyone taken away. So, seeing as how we've had lots of naughty folks recently, I created the "Word of Gun Wisdom"


1. Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all Americans, who are or can be called Americans; behold, in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring domestic terrorists in the USA, I have warned you, and forewarn you!

2. Guns are not for recreation, neither for terrorism, and are not good for people, but are a tool for sustenance hunting to be used with judgment and skill.

3. Handguns are unnecessary, and should be replaced with mace and pepper spray. It is not meet that a citizen should murder his neighbor for entering his home. It is not meet that a citizen should consider killing before a fair trial. Verily, law enforcement exists to carry out the laws of the land.

4. Again, Rifles and shot guns are for the hunting of wild animals in times of famine and excess hunger. The sport of killing is wasteful and Walmart existeth to feed the hungry.

5. Again, semiautomatic and automatic weapons are not for anyone outside of the military, engaged in active combat. It is not meet that citizens should be able to purchase weapons of this nature.

6. And all Americans who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones and aid in the lowering of gun violence statistics. This a promise that shall only be filled when gun control laws are passed.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Like a Girl

Recently, I watched a documentary about gender, and not in the way you might think. It was about what we as a society do to our boys and men. As a mom of two boys, it resonated deeply with me. I am afraid for how they will be viewed and treated, because neither one of them is "normal". Tristan has ADHD, and Mis has a speech impairment. They both love girly things right along with mighty machines, and Mis has a female nickname. So when I saw those little boys voicing their emotions for the camera, and the pain they were experiencing from the pressure to be  masculine, it broke my heart. When I listened to the hateful things that were said about women, and to men comparing them to women, my blood boiled.

I've always considered myself equal to a man. Perhaps it was the way I was raised. Perhaps it is my defiant personality, but there is no way I have ever viewed myself as second class. Even when I was Mormon, and I thought women were to submit to men, I still didn't like it, and I still didn't buy it. So when I see women being mistreated by men, or I see my gender being used as an insult or "motivator" I become very upset.

Recently, I had an interaction where someone said he believed that the phrase "like I girl" was not a bad thing. That it had a place, particularly in sports to help motivate young men to be better. If it were used just on the football field between guys, what was the harm? When I heard that, it was like someone had slapped me across the face with a stinky wet salmon.



Once I composed myself and had a moment to think, I realized, this person was just as negatively affected by our society's cling to chauvinism and hypermasculinity as any man who might make that comment.

Here's the thing. The football field is not an isolated place. Sure, if the guys were to stay on the field only interacting with each other, only as men, forever, it would be fine. But wait, then how would the metaphor work? Because women wouldn't be part of their existence! The problem is that the phrase "like a girl" is not only a sports term. It is used widely and in varied instances. The insult remains the same, if you are "like a girl" you are somehow less of a man. As though a woman's gender is a worthy insult to any man who isn't quite masculine enough. Because somehow, women are inferior beings.

I'm sure plenty of men wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and think to themselves, "God, I am so amazing". And the thought process might even go a little something more like "women suck, I'm so glad I'm not a woman or like a woman at all. And today I will be as masculine as I can, and I will probably use a female based phrase to insult my bro, because it is a great motivator if I want him to be a better man like me".

Let's chat about this for a moment. Why is it not okay to use a woman as an insult? Why is it wrong to classify femininity as weak or worse? Let me start off with one simple fact: women are human. We may have two x chromosomes instead of one, but we are part of humanity. Two arms, two legs, two eyes, a stomach, colon, and toes. Studies have indicated time and again that the male and female brain are not so different, and yet the stereotypes of women being less smart, more emotional, less capable remain. The idea that women are for men's pleasure and purpose still permeates our society. The idea that a man is better than a woman is rampant.

Studies have shown men exhibit a wider and more dynamic range of emotions than women. They just portray those emotions as appropriate, and even desirable. Emotions such as anger, rage, jealousy, hate, etc. Those are good and strong emotions. So the fact that men are quantitatively more emotional makes the statement "women are emotional and therefore not well suited for --" you fill in the blank, completely absurd. Perhaps the fact that men are prone to these emotions more than women actually makes them less suitable.

My favorite story from last week surrounded birth control for men. It's not the first time I've read about studies and trials for male birth control, but it was certainly the most ridiculous one I have read. Trials for male injected birth control were ended due to unwanted side effects, such as depression and mood swings. I read that and I just had to laugh. As a woman who wanted to have sex, I had to go on birth control, or risk pregnancy, or abortion. Taking birth control screwed with me mentally and physically. I gained weight, I got acne, I had irregular bleeding, I became depressed, I had horrible anxiety, I lost weight, I had mood swings. It was terrible. But it was the price I had to pay if I wanted to have sex. The label of my birth control said: "do not take if you have a history of breast cancer", which there is a significant history of breast cancer in my family. It also said "may cause blot clot, stroke, bleeding, mood swings, depression, weigh gain, irregular periods, infertility, etc". And all of those things women are simply expected to endure, they are expected to take those risks. It is just part of being a woman. But ask a man to do the same thing? To share the burden of sexuality? Oh hell no! They can't handle it! That, my friends, shows such a despicable privilege towards men in this country, it makes me sick.

And instead of addressing this problem, we perpetuate it! We feed this mentality and make it stronger. Our little boys are expected to grow up to be hard and emotionless men. Young males do not see the problem with gender based insults; they do not see how damaging and discriminatory those remarks are. How they cause men to view women negatively. How they cause women to view themselves negatively. How unequal standards are applied, and men equate women with weakness. How young girls in athletics feel poorly about their performance because they inherently play "like a girl".

We need to do better at educating our children, and we certainly need to do better and breaking down gender segregation. Women are not inferior to men, men are not stronger than women. No gender is better than the other, we are all human. It's time we started acting like it.

I am a girl. I am female. I am strong, capable, able, smart, understanding, kind, vulnerable, witty, imaginative, quick, artistic, compassionate. I am also irritable, agitated, selfish, reclusive. I am all these things and so much more. I'm a mom, I'm a photographer, I'm a student, I'm a wife, I'm a daughter, I'm a sister. I have hopes, I have dreams, I have goals. I have two sons. Two sons that I hope to raise to have some of my qualities and some of their dad's qualities. Two sons I hope will look at women as they look at themselves. Two sons I hope will never say "like a girl" unless they say "smart like a girl," "talented like a girl", "able like a girl". I hope they never address a grown woman as "girl". I hope they never blame a woman's response on being "emotional", I hope they never discount woman's feelings because they think she is "hormonal". I hope they never call a strong woman a "bitch", and I hope they never use a woman's genetalia to insult their friends. I hope they always show respect to men and women. I hope they never view a woman as an object, as something to obtain or control. I hope when they look at women, they remember me. A woman who, with two young children and a husband, started a business, maintained a home, and went back to school. I am not so weak.

But I am a girl. And I am PROUD to be.