Friday, December 30, 2011

Gay People Can Be Homophobic Too

As anyone who's read this blog for half a minute surely realizes, Kyrie and I are really not into the bigotry thing. I don't care who it's coming from. I don't give people passes on bigotry for any of the following reasons (or any other reasons):

1. I know them.
2. I like/love them.
3. I am related to them.
4. They're smart, professional, good at their jobs, famous, whatever.
5. They have friends/relatives belonging to the group against which they are bigoted.
6. They themselves belong to the group against which they are bigoted.

That last point is called "internalized [homophobia/racism/misogyny/whatever]." It happens all the time. Therefore, having gay friends or being gay is not an excuse to be homophobic.

Sidenote: If you know me IRL, and you've ever said that I'm your lesbian friend in order to seem cool for having a lesbian friend or to make yourself sound like less of a bigot, we're not really friends.

People who think or say things like visibly queer people are just trying to get attention really need to check themselves. For starters, they're trying to police other peoples' self-expression. There are a lot of gay people out there who want us to all just be more heteronormative because they think it will make things easier for them in some way. Like, if we can be just like straight people, everything will be fine. We won't piss off straight people, and we need them, or so this argument goes. We'll get to have marriage or whatever the fuck.

Break to remind you that I don't really care about gay marriage beyond "queer people should have access to institutions that exist." It isn't the end of the struggs. Aaaaaaand: fuck needing straight people to like us, and avoiding pissing them off. I'll piss off straight people all day and night if it will make things safer for one queer kid. That's why I posted the picture of my tattoo again.
My silences have not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.
That's Audre Lorde. Again. Always.

Some of us don't want to be just like straight people. Also also, not all straight people are the same [really!]. Plenty of straight people aren't into the normativity project either.

The idea that we should all be more normative and less visibly queer is super gross because it's upholding the idea that we should be a certain way, and that way is rooted in cis privilege and heteronormativity. My friend Kristen and I are having this conversation about good bodies and bad bodies, or heterocapitalistic bodies/rebellious bodies. She mentioned an old livejournal that basically criticized people for looking too dykey. Whatever that means. As she said, in her brilliant way with words [this was an IM conversation, you should read K's blog for other really interesting stuff]:
it was like you could be femme or androdynous but you had to be really skinny and well dressed, and people would get called like butch and bulldyke and stuff. which is homophobia, right, that you draw a line around skinny femme girls and skinny justin beiber girls and use homophobic language/policing to keep everyone else out. the same way LGB organizations want to keep out people who are trans and sex workers (good gay/bad queer) (bodies that conform to heterocap logic/bodies that rebel)

This idea that queer people should be less visibly queer is a way of telling us to get in line with the heteropatriarchy and I'm not having it. It also reifies the idea that there is a gender binary that exists, and men should look/act/be a certain way and women should look/act/be a certain way and there is a limited range of expression within that. You already know I think that's bullshit.

BUT there's also this whole other thing, which is that without visibly queer people - those of us who read super gay wherever we go or who work our asses off to raise queer visibility in all kinds of ways or who are "professional gays" or all of those things or lots of other things - without us? You don't get a movement, you don't get any progress at all. Conforming and limited- or in-visibility can work for some people, I guess, but Stonewall didn't happen because of people who tried to be under the radar. The people who have the most to lose are often the ones who suffer the most from heteronormativity/patriarchy/capitalism. If you think that that's just a way of "getting attention," you've got another think coming.

And all of this shit is stuff I've heard from gay people. There are gay people out there who want many of us to stop "trying to get attention" by "flaunting our sexual orientation." These people are not my people, I don't care if they're gay. They're homophobic. And they need to learn their history and open their eyes because their homophobia really hurts, and the people it hurts are often the people out there doing the most and/or taking the most shit because of the homophobia that these attitudes hold up.

And if any of them ever tell me I don't look gay again, I'm going to flip a table over and leave.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Financial Advice from a Laydee: Credit Cards and the Ethical Use Thereof

Hey, everyone, hope the holidays are treating you well. It's that time of year where we reflect and make resolutions and decompress, so, if you'll allow me, I shall continue with the money talk. Getting your money in order does a great deal for stress-reduction. Finance is self-care, y'all.

So, credit cards. They are capable of both great good and great evil ...


  • Credit cards are great for online purchases, because they have fraud protection. Are you using debit cards to buy things online? STOP IT. PayPal? They're the devil. In 12 years I've had fraudulent purchases made on my card twice, and in both instances my credit card company [A.] noticed it before I did and [B.] held me liable for none of it.

    I think they're also a better choice than debit cards for gas stations, because gas stations are notoriously rife with skimmers.

A skimmer
  • If you have a credit card, you should check out what protections you get from it. For instance, extra insurance on rental cars is pretty common. Some cards give you a few months' warranty on any expensive electronics you buy with them.

  • They can help you build a credit history, if that's important to you. There are other ways to live, but not having a decent credit history can limit your ability to borrow money or find an apartment to rent.

    If your credit history is bad or nonexistent, you can get a secured credit card. They're not so much "credit" because you give them money up front to hold. But if you demonstrate that you can use it within the company's parameters, then they'll eventually upgrade you to the usual type of credit card. A friend of mine used this approach when she moved to another country where her American credit rating had no clout.


  • Credit cards redistribute wealth from poor to wealthy. How? Every time you pay with a credit card, the seller has to pay a fee to your credit card company. The seller can't pass that fee along to you because their agreement with the credit card company expressly prohibits it. Folk with good credit (who are usually comparatively well-off) qualify for special rewards or cash back from their credit cards, which is funded from those fees everyone pays. It's like the opposite of how taxes should work in that we all pay more so that the least broke among us can pocket extra cash.

    It's hard to avoid credit cards for a lot of purchases, like plane flights or computers, but when it comes to things like groceries I try to pay with cash. It's a simple way for me to help keep food cheap for everyone. Another approach (one that applies more to gas than groceries) is to look for vendors who offer a cash discount, since that's one way around the prohibition against vendor-applied fees.

    It shocks me how many otherwise ethically-minded folk neglect this effect and advocate using a credit card for absolutely everything in order to rack up rewards.

  • What, not old enough for this?
  • Credit cards can be really, really bad for you if they're not compatible with your spending habits. I don't know whether they increase debt, but the average credit card debt in this country is something like $6k. J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly cut up his credit cards as a key part of getting out of debt, and recommends that others do the same.

Overall, it's like you have a tiny greedy bank CEO (or Viking, I guess that works, too) in your wallet, protecting you from fraud. That's a weird metaphor, but my point is that it's not always obvious how to use credit cards ethically. I've got a bit of a compromise going on ...


  • I try to use cash for most everything I can, especially groceries, medicine, household necessaries, and utilities (well, I use bill-pay for the latter). This dovetails nicely with my budgeting method, wherein I withdraw a set amount of cash weekly. Win-win.

  • I use my card for car rentals, online shopping, tickets, hotel rooms, and big cost items where I need the fraud protection and/or warranties and insurance.

Next topic will be debt reduction, I think, but I'm totally open to suggestion for ethical/feminist finance topics.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Letter to my Family

These days I'm a lot more prone to responding to the articles my family sends me now and then. Including this piece by Fake Andy Rooney (original by Frank Kaiser). I originally responded, with an, "Um, I'm in the group he's knocking here," being not yet 40 myself, but I was told I didn't get it. Well, then! Time to bust out the big guns!

... But seriously, folks, I object to this because it lumps all over-40 women into one group with the same characteristics. While there are no doubt many women over 40 that have and value these qualities (for instance, it sounds like Other Relative identifies with them), there are others that emphatically do not. I'd like to see you try to put bright red lipstick on Susan Herr, or tell Gloria Steinem that she's sexy because of her willingness to praise others!

And yes, Sending Relative, it is ragging on young women; I'd say "get with it" yourself! When the writer says "women over 40 are x," (s)he's implying that women not over 40 are not x: i.e., whiny, not dignified, ugly in red lipstick. Implying that younger women can't have these qualities is just as shitty as saying all older women do. It's true that men are criticized in the piece, but it's for their taste in women; they're not viewed as an alternative target for the sexual impulses of old men (which is really heteronormative, by the way). You can tell from all the gendered compliments: do you really get the sense that the writer thinks men, unlike women, will watch a sports game they don't want to watch out of timidity or that they wear unflattering lipstick colors? (Also, if you read the original, un-plagiarized version, Kaiser makes it even clearer that he's drawing distinctions between older women and younger women. Who he appreciates for their "occasional innocence." Vomit.) You can arrive at the conclusion that young women are being implicitly criticized in this piece even without acknowledging the cultural context in which older and younger women are constantly pitted against each other, which, honestly, adds yet more weight to my argument.

Anyway, if you all think the article is awesome, then I'm glad you're enjoying yourselves. But if you send a sexist, ageist, heteronormative, and gender-essentialist article to a feminist blogger, you get a lecture in return :D Have a great holiday, folks.


PS: If you send me any more lists of tips on how to prevent getting raped, I will send you long discourses on rape culture. Consider yourselves warned :)

It's worth nothing that the post is also very cisnormative and gender-binary-enforcing, and the original post is also ableist; "I still appreciate the 20-year-old for her ... vigor."

The way this culture tends to bookmark older women as matronly and unattractive regardless of their individuality is a huge problem. But lumping them all into one group and fetishizing a set of characteristics you've arbitrarily projected onto them is certainly not the way to go about fixing it.

Fortunately in my case, Sending Relative seems to kind of like the occasions when I argue them into a corner, though I always forget this and automatically tense up for a counterattack. Note to self: do not underestimate family. Happy holidays, everyone, and best of luck to you if you end up arguing with your family :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Except that some moms do. More on this in a moment.

First, a sidenote-style bit of business. I pulled my last blog, the one on Jane Ward's article about the relationships of trans men and femme ladies, because she wrote to me and said I mis-represented her. She offered, generously, to speak to me on the phone about it. I shall do that, once we set a time, and then revisit the topic.

Now, on to today's lesson. A person - Elizabeth, we shall call her, as that is her name - posted the link to this story on my Facebook wall. It's about a mom who objected to her school's solicitation of dads to help out with a construction project for a kids' activity. Go skim it, it's a quick read.

What follows is a summary of the conversation I had with Elizabeth. If I get her permission to quote her, I'll edit this and do so. Until then, I'll paraphrase.

I like the Penis Mom post all right until this part:
Ladies, this is not a situation of the men holding us back - we are holding ourselves back because we don't want to step forward if it is icky and muddy.
I think that's gross, and it's blaming women for hetero-patriarchal assumptions about gender norms, 100% of which are socialized. Some people like playing in the mud, and some don't, and the principal's assertion that SHE is a PROPER woman is ridic. But women aren't oppressed by the patriarchy because they don't like mud and to argue that they are is asinine.

Elizabeth pointed out that there's a lot of interesting stuff aside from that quote, including the fact that the word "penis" is somehow considered inappropriate for teenagers. She's right, I shouldn't just focus on that one sentence.
Parents who think 13 year olds are too delicate to hear the word "penis" (imagine if the word had been "vagina") are probably totally terrified of sex as a concept and refuse to believe that their kids will engage in it and are probably also really into regulating the sex lives of strangers. Such people include those who are anti-choice and those who think that gay people are sinners. All three concepts are equally silly/awful.

Her larger point that it's intensely retro for anyone to argue that dads and not moms are the ones who should be invited to this is a good one. The concept the school folks were working with excludes anyone who doesn't come from a hetero two-parent household, really. And it tells the boys that they'd better be ready to set up a trébuchet and girls that they'd better never be into that. [And that no other people exist besides boys and girls.] Ugh. Heteronormativity for the win, again, some more. This is all gender training.

Also: I find it's much easier for us to get all up in arms about this kind of thing than it would be when dads are excluded from shit dealing with baking or whatever. You know? It's more acceptable for the weak to mimic the powerful than the other way around. I want to see this level of outrage around men not getting invited to after-school sewing shit and boys who want to wear dresses and whatever.

Elizabeth said she's not sure what to do about that, and I said: "About what?
People who think that it's okay for women to, in at least some areas, tack to the more masculine activities, but it never appears to be okay for men to do things coded as feminine? Throw a fit about it. Like this lady did. And keep throwing fits about it."

There's also the issue that we can too easily erase people who are not male or female, or who are not men or women, or who are not masculine or feminine. If we can get rid of these ideas that people who were assigned one of only two options at birth must do certain things (and be with certain partners - again, homophobia alert) then we can more easily see, and accept, and cherish and admire and adore, the people who don't fit into our silly constructed gender binary in the first place.

Elizabeth made the argument that it's not really about "males and females," it's about power, and how, she says, Gloria Steinem argues that women should be looking for equal power, and that she (Elizabeth) is more interested in what as coded as weak or powerful.

Of course it has to do with "males and females." So many things are coded that way - almost everything, really. And things that are coded male/masculine are also coded as more powerful, and things that are coded as female/feminine are coded as weaker. And male/masculine and female/feminine don't even go together in nature, but in the cultural mind, they do.

It's an incomplete fight to say that women need access to the things coded as more powerful. That alone does nothing to upset the entirely constructed and fictional gender binary we live in. The trick to ending gender-based oppression isn't saying "women need to be invited to build machines in the mud," it's saying, "we need to stop coding things as masculine/powerful and feminine/weak." She's partly right that it's about power, but Steinem was working in a pretty limited second-wave context. I think we're beyond that now.

We need to do these things:
1. Realize that gender is constructed, and that there is nothing unnatural/aberrant/deviant/threatening about people not living up to the gender they were assigned at birth. Here's the thing: NO ONE lives up to the gender we were assigned at birth. Some people are just more obvious/visible about it, or disinterested in even trying.
2. Following from that, we can see that everything coded as masculine/powerful and feminine/weak is a lie based in bigotry and misogyny. And we can stop coding shit according to whether assigned-at-birth men or assigned-at-birth women do it.
3. AND THEN we can see that we're all just performing our genders (see #1 above), and I think life will get a lot easier for trans and genderqueer people, who get the shit kicked out of them in all kinds of literal and figurative ways for not conforming to the lie of the binary.
4. AND THEN we won't bat an eyelash if a girl comes to school in "boys' clothes" or a boy comes to school in "girls' clothes" and people will be free to be as masculine or feminine or whatever that they want, ANDDDDD masculine and feminine won't be the only choices. People will just be free to express themselves however they want and a lot of violence will end.
5. And we will, I fucking hope, stop having gay panic every five fucking seconds. I realize that a lot of comedians will be out of work, but that's a price I'm willing to pay.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Financial Advice from a Laydee: Bargaining

TreeYou guys, I am preeetty good at financial stuff. I am also perpetually bursting with financial advice and dying for an outlet. And since 'tis the season for it, I thought I'd start posting some of it.

What does this have to do with the rest of the blog? Plenty! For one, a lot of the financial advice out there is written by doodz. And, not to knock doodz, because they write tons of good stuff, but sometimes it doesn't translate. This is not because of our tiny math-allergic female brains, but because of society.

For example: bargaining. Every dood-written financial blog I've read eventually says something like, "You can get a discount on anything! Just ask for it!" Get Rich Slowly advocates doing this, as does Ramit Sethi. Once I decided to take Sethi's advice and try to negotiate a lower cable rate. I had in hand an advert for a low introductory rate that I did not qualify for, being an existing customer, and a set of suggested tactics from Sethi, including things like asking to speak with customer retention, that would supposedly help convince them to lower my rate. I stayed cool and friendly and I think I'm capable of sounding reasonably professional. And it did not work at all.

It also didn't work when I tried to bargain for a lower price on a used car. I chose to remain carless because the seller would not budge by even the smallest amount on the price. That just offends my principles. Who refuses to bargain on a used car? Incidentally, the only time I successfully negotiated a lower price on a car was when I was co-buying it with a dood. I could give you a couple more examples but let's just say it's a pattern. And it's not just me. Laydeez everywhere run up against walls when they try to buy cars or negotiate raises.

In fact, the only time I can think of that I successfully negotiated for something was with my landlord. When I first moved in, the dining room contained a giant free-standing wardrobe so that they could market it as a two bedroom. It took up an annoying amount of space and they refused to remove it. That is, until it came time to renew. Then, it became more worthwhile to deal with the wardrobe than to find a new tenant, especially one that might not pay on time regularly or keep the place spotless. And so I got my way eventually, not by negotiating but by establishing myself as a valuable tenant. And a couple years later, I got them to agree to shorter leases in order to keep me on. It's the usual drill: I did more work for less reward.

Sorry if this isn't very encouraging, but I think it's useful to know. The realization that I acquire bargaining power by building financial relationships rather than through charm means that when I move someplace new I spend a LOT of time looking for a good apartment, one that I am more likely to stay a while in. And I'm delaying buying a car, and if/when I do get one, I will plan on driving it to death. I may even hire a dood to negotiate the price for me. Perhaps most importantly, it means that when I look for a job, I pay attention to what they say about women. My current boss hires a lot of women and promoted that in my first phone interview with him, and that kind of thing definitely factors into a job search when you know you've got the raise-negotiation-odds stacked against you in general.

I hope this sort of thing is helpful. I'd like to continue writing about finance now and then because I am so tired of all the bullshit you hear regarding laydeez and financial literacy, like that "women also prefer to learn about money in person or in groups with others in their situation, as opposed to curling up with a book" (ref). Could that be because most of those books are written by men? Who are giving naive advice like, "go ahead, ask for a raise!" If the advice doesn't work for women, then women will stop reading and seek advice from their peers. Cuz bitches be rational.

Also! Readers, I'd love to hear about your experiences with negotiation, especially if you got it to work for you, and if you have any thoughts on how that intersects with any aspects of your identity.