Posts Tagged ‘homophobia

21
Oct
09

Machismo: Lost In Translation

Given its history and reputation as a fiery, imperial, and “Inquisitive” culture, I’ve been struck recently by Spain’s seeming disavowal of a word their language coined: Machismo. While used as a euphemism in many parts of the States for men who yearn to be toe-kickin’ John Wayne-a-bees, Spain translates it literally as “chauvinism,” and treats it as such.

I was first struck by this notion at the Gay Pride Parade I went to here in Madrid, at which there were many signs reading, “Homophobia = Machismo.” The idea seemed to be that machismo is something so looked down upon as antiquated, cruel, and ill-informed (to say the least) that it is mostly now used as a warning, as something so awful and ignorant that you would not want any association with it. The further fact that those signs constituted the first time I had seen/heard/read the word “machismo” in 2 and a half years living here also struck me as odd. After all, the image of the “Macho Man”–as literal Marlboro-man-type, or as ironically flamboyant Village Person–seems to me to be omnipresent across the pond. On the contrary, after being on the lookout, the only other context in which I’ve seen the word used is equating macho men to chronically abusive spouses.

But it doesn’t just end there. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a man at the store wearing a translated version of the biker t-shirt that reads “If You Can Read This…The BITCH Fell Off.” And, while the shirt was definitely recognizable in its design and basic verbiage, the actual message on the back (translated directly back from Spanish) is “If You Can Read This…My FIANCEE/GIRLFRIEND Has Fallen From The Motorcycle.” Comically extraneous prepositional phrases aside, the shirt’s translation to Spanish meant that it necessarily had to lose all of its anger and nonchalance about a violent act occurring to someone about whom the wearer is supposed to care. I can just imagine the first Spaniard reading the American version of the shirt: “Oh ho HO, that poor guy! He’s going to be so worried when he finds out she’s not there! What a useful shirt to let us know to alert him!”

I was just reminded of this whole thing while looking for a movie to watch. I clicked on the “Men Who Hate Women” link, only to find out it’s the movie based on Stieg Larsson’s ubiquitous novel of the same name. At least, its English name is Men Who Hate Women. Its Spanish title (again, translated back) is The Men Who Did Not Love Women. The difference is not only that hate is never mentioned, but that the verb used for the “not love” part of the title is “amar,” the deeper form of the traditional verb “querer,” which also means “to love.” The implication is that the men described in the book did not romantically, truly, deeply love women, as opposed to the English title, which implies that the men in the book harbor darkly violent distaste for women.

And so it occurs to me that there might be something to what I always called, in my younger days, “politically correct horsewallop.” What I see here is something I also remember thinking in the South: Language is power. Specifically, the type of language viewed as community-approved or acceptable sets the tone for the society, and the implications can indeed be palpable. Pulling back on said language, reserving it only for extreme cases, or just outright banning it, then, might not be such a bad thing.


To cite an example from my time below the Mason-Dixon, one day I was driving with one of my neighbors (a female microbiologist) and her niece, returning her niece back to Lafayette (the biggest little city in Cajun Country, for those not in the know). We both started teasing the 16-year-old girl about having a secret crush on one of her school’s football players, a boy who happened to be black. She slumped in her seat and grumbled, “Please. I ain’t gonna have no niglets running ’round my house.” My neighbor saw me blanch and catch my breath, and virtually ran her truck off the road so she could grab her niece and say to her what all Southerners sometimes need said to them:

“If you ever want to get out of a shithole town and be around smart, good people, you can’t talk like that. Any educated people you’re going to meet won’t like it, and they won’t like you.”

That is to say, while your average Connecticut housewife may indeed clutch her purse more closely when she sees any young minority in baggy pants walking by her, betraying some unspoken bigotry in her soul, she won’t admit that she does so; the mere fact that she knows that society frowns on it makes her disapprove of her own thoughts. It is less a case of using sunshine as a disinfectant, and more a case of constructing a polite society. Like not starting food fights in fancy restaurants (even though it’s secretly kind of fun), we don’t do it because we’re not fucking animals.

Why the sudden harsh tone? Taking the argument about machismo, for example, and its lack of perceived hilarity in Spain, let’s look at some statistics. The first 100 days in 2007, 15 women died in Spain as a result of domestic violence. The public outcry was enormous, even though the number dropped (by 6) from the previous year. Protest rallies were organized and held, and the anti-machismo posters abounded. For comparison’s sake, citing a 2005 study, at least 3 women die every day in the United States at the hand of a current or ex-partner. So, in that same period of time in 2007, barring some sudden precipitous drop in cases, 300 women died in the United States. To be fair, let’s adjust the number to show the disparity in population (Spain’s population is roughly 13% that of the United States), and the number come out to 40, over double Spain’s “unacceptable” number.

Maybe it’s all just smoke and mirrors, or maybe it’s just because Spanish men are more preoccupied with Real Madrid vs. Real Betis to save up any violent passions for their spouses, but it seems to me to be worth noting that Machismo may need to stop being funny. Cause maybe it’s already not.

24
Sep
09

New Hope For An AIDS Vaccine

This is not going to be funny. This is just…well, in the words of one of the scientists, “Wow.”

A U.S.-funded study involving more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand found that a combination of ALVAC, made by Paris- based Sanofi-Aventis SA, and AIDSVAX, from VaxGen Inc., of South San Francisco, cut infections by 31.2 percent in the people who received it compared with those on a placebo, scientists said today in Bangkok. Neither vaccine had stopped the virus that causes AIDS when tested separately in previous studies.

In other words, the research into an AIDS vaccine has broken through, and is now showing promise. A lot of promise. Wow.

I may be showing my age a bit by breathing such a huge sigh of relief here. For those who are too young to remember the terror this disease inflicted on the populous, suffice it to say that it was one of the scarier disease threats I’ve ever witnessed. Not just because of its spread, nor its seeming finality, but because of the ugliness it would bring out in social discourse. The wholly erroneous, disgusting, and dangerous notion was that this disease was confined to perverts, who were doomed anyway. The thing that was especially terrifying and repulsive to me was how widespread the notion seemed, and how the idea of catching a disease suddenly seemed like a social stigma unlike any other. In no other fatal medical situation I have witnessed were so many victims blamed, dismissed, brutalized, and discarded.

I hope the possible light at the end of the tunnel in the search for a vaccine can be metaphorical here. Because the way the victims of AIDS are/were treated is not funny, and neither is the way the homosexual community is treated in the United States. Just as the experiment can now move on, after 2 years of stalling, maybe we can also push forward and recognize that civility, tolerance, and empathy are what unites us.

In short: AIDS is not, and never was, a gay issue, but rather a health issue. When it was recognized as such, and when we started taking seriously the steps that could be taken to prevent such an atrocity from happening to anyone, we moved forward, in a direction that is both productive and awesome. Likewise, being granted the right to decide how to live and love is not a gay issue; it’s a Civil Rights issue. Hopefully, when it begins to dawn on us that this is true, we can once again move forward, out of darkness, and into a place that can make us proud.

I hope the possible light at the end of the tunnel in the search for a vaccine can be metaphorical here. Because the way the victims of AIDS are/were treated is not funny, and neither is the way the homosexual community is treated in the United States. Just as the experiment can now move on, after 2 years of stalling, maybe we can also push forward and recognize that civility, tolerance, and empathy are what unites us.

27
May
09

Reddit Sums Up My Rage Against The Homophobes In My Home State

How sad when Reddit’s tiny alien sums up my mood.

reddit

In any case, the bullshit that is Prop. 8 was upheld. On the one hand, I think it’s a shitty ruling, since the CA Supreme Court had previously declared the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. On the other, negating something voted into law would have to entail election shenanigans, I would assume, and there were none here. Just bigotry. Of course, why this bigotry is not being called out and decried by the courts that called out and decried the bigotry directed at interracial couples is…well, bullshit. Total fucking bullshit. And no one can talk me down, to use the parlance of someone now designated a third-class system by the very justice system that is supposed to defend her rights as a citizen and a person.

In any case, I still seriously and fully support Melissa Etheridge’s idea of a tax boycott. Taxation without representation is unamerican (just ask Washington D.C.), and shouldn’t be tolerated. If a substantial percentage of the population has to wait till 2010 for their civil rights to maybe be granted by the state in which they reside, that state should have to wait till 2010 to see if maybe they pay their taxes.

14
May
09

It’s The Economy, Faggot

Let’s hope the Obama administration really does, as is rumored, read Andrew Sullivan. His column on Obama’s gay rights bullshit no-stances is powerful stuff, and everyone should read it. Which is why I’m going to post it in its entirety:


The Fierce Urgency Of Whenever

I lived through eight years of the Clintons and then eight years of Bush. Through it all, gay people were treated at the federal level like embarrassments or impediments. With Clinton, we were the means to raise money. With Bush, we were the means to leverage votes by exploiting bigotry. Obama seemed in the campaign to promise something else. I listened to him in the early days and found him sincere about ending discrimination by the government; and I came to respect, while vehemently disagreeing with, his position on federal civil unions. He seemed genuinely distressed that gay servicemembers should be treated with contempt and persecution by their commander-in-chief, that gay couples should have to fight for basic human treatment – like entry to hospital rooms, or being able to stay in the same apartment as their late spouse, or forced into cruel separation by immigration laws that treat gay couples as threats, rather than assets, or if you had the temerity to survive HIV, being treated at the US border the way Jesse Helms always wanted people with HIV to be treated – like perverts and pariahs and threats.

It is quite something to have a government stamp in your passport, as I do, that will tell any immigration or police officer with a connection to a government database that I have HIV, that I am therefore a threat and can be arrested and detained and deported at the border if necessary. I’m a big boy with money and a robust self-esteem as an HIV-positive survivor, but I think of thousands of others far less powerful and wealthy than I am who are afraid to enter or leave the US because their HIV status renders them criminals. I think of how the US is the only developed country – and one of only a handful of undeveloped countries – that still tells the world that people with HIV are dangerous pariahs, who need policing at borders and deporting if discovered. And yet this is the current policy of the Obama administration on global HIV and AIDS.

And it’s tedious to whine and jump up and down and complain when a wand isn’t waved and everything is made right by the first candidate who really seemed to get it, who was even able to address black church congregations about homophobia. And obviously patience is necessary; and legislative work takes time; and there are real challenges on so many fronts, especially the economy and the legacy of war crimes and the permanently restive Iraqi and Afghan regions we are constantly in the process of liberating from themselves. No one expects a president to be grappling with all this early on, or, God help us, actually leading on civil rights. That’s our job, not his.

But I have a sickeningly familiar feeling in my stomach, and the feeling deepens with every interaction with the Obama team on these issues. They want them to go away. They want us to go away.

Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. Here we are, with marriage rights spreading through the country and world and a president who cannot bring himself even to acknowledge these breakthroughs in civil rights, and having no plan in any distant future to do anything about it at a federal level. Here I am, facing a looming deadline to be forced to leave my American husband for good, and relocate abroad because the HIV travel and immigration ban remains in force and I have slowly run out of options (unlike most non-Americans with HIV who have no options at all).

And what is Obama doing about any of these things? What is he even intending at some point to do about these things? So far as I can read the administration, the answer is: nada. We’re firing Arab linguists? So sorry. We won’t recognize in any way a tiny minority of legally married couples in several states because they’re, ugh, gay? We had no idea. There’s a ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants? Really? Thanks for letting us know. Would you like to join Joe Solmonese and John Berry for cocktails? The inside of the White House is fabulous these days.

Yesterday, Robert Gibbs gave non-answer after non-answer on civil unions and Obama’s clear campaign pledge to grant equal federal rights for gay couples; non-answer after non-answer on the military’s remaining ban on honest servicemembers. What was once a categorical pledge is now – well let’s call it the toilet paper that it is. I spent yesterday trying to get a better idea of what’s intended on all fronts, and the overwhelming sense – apart from a terror of saying anything about gay people on the record – is that we are in the same spot as in every Democratic administration: the well-paid leaders of the established groups get jobs and invites, and that’s about it. Worse: we will get a purely symbolic, practically useless hate crimes bill that they will then wave in our faces to prove they need do nothing more.

As for the HIV ban, legislatively lifted by overwhelming numbers of Republicans and Democrats almost a year ago, this is the state of play from an Obama HHS spokesman:

“The Department of Health and Human Services has submitted for OMB review a notice of proposed rule-making to implement this change.”

Translation: we’re doing the bare minimum to make us look no worse than Bush, but we have no real interest in this and are letting the bureaucracy handle it, and we guarantee nothing. On gay servicemembers, the president is writing personal notes to those he has fired and intends to continue firing. Will he write some personal notes to the people with HIV he deports? Will he write personal notes to the gay spouses suddenly without a home or their late spouse’s savings or forced by his administration to relocate abroad because he has no intention of actually fulfilling his promises?

I recall my old, now dead, friend Bob Hattoy, who toiled in the Clinton administration. He was going to write a memoir of working with people who thought of homosexual rights as wonderful things to say you support (especially if you’re fundraising or at a Hollywood dinner party) but far, far too controversial to ever do anything about, let alone risk anything for. In the end, of course, the Clintons enacted a slew of brutally anti-gay measures – passing DOMA, doubling the rate of gay discharges from the military, signing the ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants – and expected standing ovations as pioneers of civil rights. The pathetic gay rights leaders gave it to them, so delighted were they to have their checks cashed. The proposed title of Bob’s book was a summary of the priorities of the Clinton years:

It’s The Economy, Faggot.

I have a feeling he died laughing. What else are you gonna do?

I agree 100%. Gay rights are civil rights. Period. Using a community’s desperation to only be partially marginalized and discriminated against (as opposed to forcibly extricated from “polite society”) in order to get elected is disgusting. Especially for beneficiaries of the movement. And I’m not just talking Obama here: Women, Jews, Catholics, all minorities, and sometimes majorities…we all benefit together, or perish alone.

01
May
09

Michele Bachmann Outdone!

Crazy like a Foxx…

Virginia Foxx just couldn’t sit back and let Michele Bachmann get all the attention for being the wingnuttiest wingnut ever to wingnut. After hearing what was sure to be another Bachmann classic (fighting against the extension of hate crimes legislation to include homophobic crimes), she launched into the following diatribe about how Matthew Shepard wasn’t killed because he was gay, the whole thing’s a big liberal hoax, and we’re all a bunch of idiot pig-fuckers if we think different.

BONUS: She did this in front of Matthew Shepard’s mother.

Congratulations, Virginia Foxx, you’re officially less funny and more monstrous than Bachmann could ever hope to be!

18
Mar
09

No, Meghan McCain, This Is What Socially-Accepted Prejudice Looks Like

I recently read Meghan McCain’s idiotic blog responding to Laura Ingraham and her attack on overweight women. No, I don’t think it’s idiotic because it’s saying the attack was unwarranted and juvenile, since that’s obviously true. And, no, I don’t think it’s idiotic because it, like all her other posts, reads as though a 9-year-old wrote it. Mostly, it was this line that I objected to: Today, taking shots at a woman’s weight has become one of the last frontiers in socially accepted prejudice.

Inferring that you’re chunky is not a socially-accepted prejudice. Don’t believe me? Try reading the numerous responses written and spoken (including here) about Ingraham’s remark, all of which deem it out of line (even Bill O’Reilly admitted that). That’s not social acceptance of said prejudice; that’s a rightful repudiation.

What is socially-accepted prejudice, then? How about the kind of prejudice that rescinds 10% of the American population’s basic civil rights to live and love as they please? How about a new and growing trend in South Africa to “cure” some of these people by engaging in “corrective rape”? How about it seeming like a slur to imply our President was possibly once maybe connected to someone who might be a Muslim?

That, my poor dear, is what hate look like. And it’s nothing whatsoever like implying that Jessica Simpson was wearing something mind-bogglingly unflattering that undercut her image as a sex symbol (one, by the by, that she and her father hand-crafted and topped off with a video of her washing a car in a string bikini).

This is not to say that, seeing as weight is still a social and not a health concern in American culture, it’s not difficult for you to hear someone lambaste yours. Especially when your social circle is largely, I’m supposing, composed of wealthy women who love nothing more than to snark at anyone approaching a double-digit dress size whenever possible (my high school memories are all coming back to me now). All I’m saying is it would behoove you to show some perspective, and some respect, for people who have to somehow survive and cope with the real deal.

19
Feb
09

Ah, That Explains It


I was just wondering how a Utah senator could be so all-fired stupid that he’d go on the TV machine and proclaim gay people “mean. They want to talk about being nice. They’re the meanest buggers I have ever seen… It’s just like the Muslims.”

And then I saw his name.

Now I know why he’s driven to crazy-town by the very mention of our gay brethren. And, since he’s 100 years old, I’m guessing his playground taunting was especially relentless. I mean, who can even look at this guy’s name without tittering and thinking of buttsecks (cp: Wonkette)?

Ladies and gentleman, may I present, in all his glory(?)

Senator Buttars!




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