What if we are a fanpire nation, allowing the passage of Prop 8 via our Twilight obsessions?

I have been absent from blog-land for some time now, immersed in teaching, grading, research, parenting, etc. I was spurred to post today due to the appalling decision yesterday regarding Prop 8 that has blighted the sunshine state in which I reside.

Part of what has kept me from blogging is my current research/writing project – a feminist analysis of the Twilight phenomenon in relation to girl culture, abstinence-only education, the hyper-sexualization of females, and our corporate capitalist patriarchal world of Christian, white, male, hetero privilege.

This project was born via the intervention of one of my very favorite feminists – my ten-year-old daughter. She wanted to read the series and find out what all the fuss was about, so we read it together. I expected to be disturbed by it, I expected to hate it, yet I was surprised on both counts.

I was DEEPLY disturbed by it – but not only or mainly for the reasons I expected (more on this later).

And I did hate the series in many ways– but I also became fascinated by it – I could not put the damn books down!  (more on this later, too)

For today, I want to focus on Prop 8 and what it represents – the continuing homophobia and heteronormativity of our culture– and how the mega-profitable Twilight franchise helped to enshrine such hatred into law.

As Dancin With Your Mouth Open posted back in November of 08,

With the huge boxoffice success of “Twilight,” it grossed over $70M domestically, this past weekend, not only is Stephenie Meyer making tons of money so is the Mormon church. Stephenie Meyer, described as the “the Mormon Anne Rice,” does what any good Mormon does which is called tithing. Tithing is a requirement in the Mormon religion and it’s usually 10% of their earnings. So, with all the talk about the Mormon church being a huge supporter of Prop 8, it seems like “Twilight” and Stephanie Meyer are contributors as well.

Meyer has on multiple occasions stated that, in accordance with her Mormon belief, 10% of all  her profits for all things Twilight go to the Mormon church. (See, for example, The Advocate).

While she has not made any public statement regarding Prop 8, her tithing to the church supports institutionalizing discrimination against those who are not heterosexual. By extension, a percentage of the multi-billion dollar Twilight industry went towards the Mormon Church, an institution that played a huge funding role in initially getting Prop 8 on the ballot, and then kept the funding in plentiful supply in order to grow support for the Yes on 8 camp. The success of this campaign, which relied on dollars and dogma, would not have been possible without the big money that came from the Mormon Church and other religious donors.

Can we finally admit that rather than a separation of church and state we have a MARRIAGE between church and state – they are like the perfect couple, supporting each other via campaign contributions on the one hand and tax exempt status on the other.

In terms of the fanpire’s role, their obsession with all things Twilight has further lined the pocketbooks of a Church that is unashamed of its homophobia. Even those of us who are not members of the growing legions of fanpires, those of us who merely read the series and watched the movie and yet can still somehow sleep at night without dreaming of Edward, have contributed to Meyer’s tithing, and, by extention, to the success of Prop 8. To be honest, I didn’t consider this component of purchasing the books until a friend mentioned it to me, and I feel the fool for NOT realizing it. (Then again, it seems even going to see Milk helped those in support of prop 8).

How in a world where homophobia is the norm can one NOT contribute to it? I think not contributing at this time is an impossibility  —  our culture has it set up so we all must contribute, even if only subconsciously.

Yet, I find tithing, from whatever religion (as not only Mormons tithe), particularly abhorrent when used in such ways. Not only is it tax-exempt but it  is used (as in this instance)  to turn prejudice and discrimination into law in the name of religion. How ironic given the frequent complaint from the Mormon Church that they are discriminated against for their religion, that they are the Christain ‘Others’!

Meyer’s silence about the issue of homophobia in her church in general, and Prop 8 in particular, comes across as deafeningly loud –it speaks volumes, showing support for discrimination via economic buttressing of an institution that helped California, the state I live in, to etch inequality into law. So much for the sunshine state – so much for dazzling, sensitive vampires – instead, we have Prop Hate funded in part by Ms. Meyer and her adoring fanpire. Guess it’s ok for a lion to love a lamb, but not for a man to love another man.

52 thoughts on “What if we are a fanpire nation, allowing the passage of Prop 8 via our Twilight obsessions?”

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your research on Twilight. I could not finish reading the first book because I also was seriously disturbed by it.

    You raise a great question on how, in this corporate, capitalist society, can we avoid contributing to injustice. I mean, even if seeing Milk will do it … Jeez.

  2. Thanks Barbara.

    I have heard from many feminists they couldn’t finish the books or that they had to stop watching the movie due to its decidedly anti-feminist messages.

    It disturbs me how this book is being so widely embraced given its glorification of a textbook signs of an abusive relationship. How can girls and women think someone stalking them and watching them while they sleep is romantic? Of course, they are encouraged to see this sort of behavoiur as proof of love — as if such obsessive, over-protective actions are romantic. Ick.

    I do think the series has some merits though, and I think its important to read/view such texts even when they are anti-feminist — and especially when they become part of the cultural zeitgeist. Knowing the messages they contain and then critiquing them (and prompting others to do so) seems to me a way to help mitigate their destructive power…

  3. That’s interesting. I actually found Bella’s independent defiance something refreshing and not necessarily anti-feminist. She seems very eager to not conform to the roles society is trying to puch her into. In fact, much of her frustration and moodiness seems derived from her desrie to be in control of her destiny. I see her love affair more liberating than oppressive.

  4. Kate,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that aspects of Bella’s love affair can be read as liberating, as can the fact that she is depicted as someone who actively desires rather than one who is desired (i.e. she is a desiring subject rather than a desired object). I also agree that she desires to control her destiny — and takes decisive action to do so. However, the fact that her anti-conformity is wrapped in a love story wrapper is disappointing.

    I was not bothered by her frustration. I didn’t see her as moody. Rather, I wonder why a such a seemingly smart character can’t have more to her story than “I love him so much I want to be with him forever.”

    I think the sad part is – and Twi is certainly not unique here – girls and women are still being sold on the idea that their only form of adventure, subversion, and self-actualization comes through love, romance, and sex.

  5. I am reading these books (painfully still on the first one) because I work with teens and think it would be a worthwhile way to discuss healthy versus abusive relationships. But I can only read a few pages at a time, which is odd for me because I can read through just about anything, usually in an evening.

    Perhaps it is because I am in my 30s but I find the book so boring. And, of course, problematic in so many ways.

    I am reminded of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and how it sells abuse to girls as romantic.

    There is a terrific series on Disney, not sure if you are aware of it. I posted links on my website http://thecuriousescapadesofdeedeethecat.blogspot.com/2007/12/evil-disney-mickey-mouse-monopoly.html

  6. Shermanvolvo,

    Yes — I LOVE Mickey Mouse Monopoloy – often show segments of it in my intro to women’s studiues classes…

    I am reminded of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in relation to Twi, too. In fact, I am writing about this in my book in progress. Lots of princess comparisons to make as well!

    I am thrilled to hear you are force-feeding yourself the series in painful bites in order to help teens differentiate between healthy vs abusive relationships. Bravo for you! Sorry to hear you are struggling with it — I found it helpful to make lots of highlights and notes that fed the feminist critic I am!

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. Hmm, you’re right about needing to know what’s in the waters of the debate. That’s one reason why I’ve kept up with the Left Behind stuff, even though I can’t read those books either, but for the same reason why I also can’t read a Dan Brown novel: I find the writing too terrible. Bella’s character is too Mary Sue-ish: too perfect, too beloved-by-all. Her only flaw was that she was clumsy? Shee-yeah. But you have a good point and I should take another look at reading them.

    But yeesh, I hadn’t thought about Disney’s BatB in ages, and you’re right! Beauty’s relationship with the Beast is emotional abuse, too! Eek.

  8. Barbara,
    Thanks for commenting.
    I did make it through Da Vinci Code — but I agree on the writing. Meyer’s writing is far from stellar too — as many, many note. Some of her descriptions hurt my brain – especially the literature professor side of my brain. How many times does she use the words marble and cold? Someone give the woman a thesaurus!

    I found Bella rather weak, submissive, needy, anti-feminist… But, I know what you mean about being “too beloved.” It’s quite typical of romance novels to have an ‘ordinary’ heroine with a flaw or two — this way readers can identify and put themselves in her shoes, imagining the hero could love them in all their ordinariness too. Yuck-o-rama.

    Yes, the Beast is one beast of a partner — and Belle learns if she only loves him enough, is good enough, she can tame him. What a horrible message! Edward is rather beastly too — esp when reading the story from his eyes, ala Midnight Sun. But then, we women are supposed to love beastly, controlling men. Where would patriarchy be without this lynchpin?

  9. I find it interesting that I as a young female have not seen one book out there that promotes a healthy relationship ideals. I guess writing about that kind of thing would be too boring, but I’m certainly not stepping in to see Twilight, I had no idea of the kind of impact that this type of series has had in supporting yes on 8 campaigns… I was devastated and shocked when it actually passed in the Gold State, and even more hurt when I’d found out my own father had voted yes on an issue he deemed religious, only to be proved wrong by me later when we were actually able to sit down and have logical discussion on the matter… Great blog btw…

    1. Thanks for commenting Sierra!
      Hmmm, a book that promotes healthy relationship ideals… my mind is drawing a blank. Maybe Herland or other feminsit utopian fiction by the likes of Marge Piercy?
      Yup, the series does have the knock on effecting of bolstering heteronormativity — I posted on this today…
      Glad you like the blog — hope you will keep reading!

  10. Okay, as I’ve stated before. I have no issue with gay people being married, and myself am a christian and married. Reason for this is because I do not believe that someone else whose choice I don’t agree with will destroy my family values so long as I teach my children what I think is right and wrong then let them make there own choice on it when of age.

    That being said, I think the voters spoke on it. Religious or not people cast there ballots and one side won. Yes I know this pisses some people off to no end but what about all the other things that have passed the those people didn’t like and then the same people who are complaining now looked at them and said. “Hey, that’s how the vote went. We won stop complaining.”

    Well, they won. Stop complaining, get over it and move on. If you really want that to happen you need to get over that current loss and work towards the next day to try and get the things you want passed passed. I know this may seem abrasive but its the truth.

    Ps I don’t care for the tween novel myself.

    1. Interesting how you frame gay marriage as opposed to “family values.” Do gay people not have such values? What about the parents who have gay children? Do their families not have values either?
      Yes, voters spoke on it, but there was HUGE money funneled into various states by religious institutions, and by the Mormon church in particular. It is not so much “free choice” voting as wealthy institutions using their privilege to swing the vote in their direction. Historically, it is harder for those on the “minority side” who, due to systems of privilege and power, have less money to spend on campaigns. Thus, those who are disenfranchised in various ways cannot wield anywhere near the power of those in the dominant (right, religious) mainstream.
      Lastly, just imagine that a new law passed that said your marriage was null and void due to “opposite” sex marriage being illegal — would you be able to just “get over it and move on”?

      1. Well lets start at the bottom of yer reply. Not likely to happen, but even if they did pass that law they couldn’t stop me from being with the one I love. And I’d move on from that point and work towards overturning that law. Just like I was suggesting in my past statement, or didn’t you read into what I said?

        I didn’t say move on and sit on yer rump. I stated more or less you should continue your fight. Losing and then bitching about losing doesn’t do anything other then make the loss even greater. Those who can get over a loss and then move on to push towards the goal they want and yern for rather then blame anything they can find tend to do better.

        You said mainstream religion caused the loss, yet how much did those who have money who are gay or support gays give? In part your right, those groups used the money they had to help get the word out on it to the voters. Though if you think it was all them that caused the loss then yer only looking at half the equation.

        You only really lose if you give up; have you? Or will you do what great people in the past have and push through, fight with word and determination and get what you desire?

        I guess what I’m really trying to say is, yer dwelling on the past, when you should be working on the win.

  11. I am not sure if this is a farked up motivational speech for a sports game or just plain old “get over it, oppressed people”.

    I fail to see how talking about homophobia and current legal justifications and manifestations are dwelling on the past. People in same sex relationships are still not allowed the dignity of marriage, to be treated as equal citizens.

    This isn’t about winning or losing but about respect, equality and dignity.

  12. Hi, Thanks for writing this. I included a link to this post on my facebook page, because it makes me crazy that all these liberal (and many gay) friends of mine are contributing to this.

  13. As a young gay person (though not an American), I agree that it is important to move forwards and not backwards when it comes to equal rights for all people. I also feel your article has been written with sensitivity and intelligence.

    However, I am also a spiritual person, and I must say, stating so baldly that Meyer’s tithing goes where the Mormon Church goes seems to me like attempted sensationalism. Meyer has not publicly supported Prop 8 or even shared her views on the matter of homosexuality. If she is homophobic, then she’s not antagonistic about it. Tithing is part of the Mormon faith. It’s quite plausible Meyer didn’t follow the thread of reason far enough to realise a portion of her money will go to political ideologies supported by the Church. Therefore it must be made clear that Meyer may be no more than a tool in this scandal, not a perpetrator.

    The matter of her books is different again, since they are very disturbing. It would be unethical to speak of someone else’s mental health unless one was a trained psychologist who interviewed that person, but speaking without that clinical support, it speaks to me of a warped view of life and love. I side with Rogers over Freud, however, and again say, it’s quite possible that it’s not her fault, but just the way her life has turned out to date, and she is only trying to do her best with the tools she has.

    I suppose the real point here is not whether her actions are deliberate and she is accountable for them, but instead that our passions often have a distant result that we do not see. In that case, it’s just as righteous to remind people that the fish they buy cheaply from supermarkets is quite likely to have come directly from Tanzania, where the fishermen starve themselves so that the corrupt government can profit from the great international trade of cash crops (I’m mentioning this case because I know a bit about it; you can Google “Tanzania Nile perch” or watch the documentary Darwin’s Nightmare if you’re not aware of it and would like to be).

    As petty as a Catholic father telling his boy, “Eat all your food, there are people starving in Africa”, I know; but people’s passions are more easily excited over whether gay people should be allowed to marry or not, and whether Twilight describes love or stalking, than the fact that all the money poured into Meyer’s pocket goes into her self-indulgent mansion instead of into areas that could use her wealth. Political piety takes precedent over starvation and disease?

    Why don’t the Mormon Church use some of those funds to help the UN’s Millenium Development Goals? God forbid, if the Catholics gave up just a fraction of the grandeur they flaunt in Vatican City, they could afford to feed Africa for a week and probably have enough left over for the slums of southern Asia, India, the Middle East, and Central and South America.

    Thanks for your factual presentation of the situation. I was told of it, but it was implied that Meyer was directly responsible, in order to fuel hatred among people who already despised her. Instead you’ve written a neutral and open-minded account, though it is clear what your opinion in the matter is — but, again, as good articles do, you haven’t forced it on anyone. Bravo!

    1. TAW,
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. On reflection, I agree I may be too harsh on Meyer here. It is quite reasonable to believe she wasn’t thinking about where her tithing money would go. However, I do wonder given the amount of media coverage of prop 8 and the Mormon’s monetary support of homophobia…
      As for your points that church’s could so much better use their wealth to help people out of poverty etc, I heartily agree. (Though I do wish people did not “require” religion to feel the need to help others… I am not a big believer in organized religion — too much like a corporation, too corrupt…)
      As for your points that we should care just as much about fisher-people in Tanzania (not sure if they are all men?!?) I agree with that too — it does seem sometimes there are so many insurmountable problems. But as they advise over at Shakesville, we can address the ocean of problems our world faces teaspoon by teaspoon and, as they suggest, every teaspoon counts…
      And on the point of money better spent, imagine what the US could do with that 227 plus billion spent on the “war on terror”…

  14. @Reidon

    ‘That being said, I think the voters spoke on it. Religious or not people cast there ballots and one side won. Yes I know this pisses some people off to no end but what about all the other things that have passed the those people didn’t like and then the same people who are complaining now looked at them and said. “Hey, that’s how the vote went. We won stop complaining.”’

    You are describing the ‘tyranny of the majority’. Not a good thing.

    1. The by the same token, wouldn’t it be ‘tyranny of the majority’ if it had passed and those who lost felt rather personal about it? On somethings yes there is a win win, but this I don’t think it has one.
      And to say it would not be ‘tyranny of the majority’ to either losing side would create a circuler argument.

  15. Wow….i never thought of that at all…i had no idea, i feel really bad because i all the way support gay rights yet at the same time love twilight and i saw the latest movie last weekend. I feel betrayed by Meyer and i feel i had betrayed the gay community.

    1. Noelle,
      As Peggy McIntosh says, guilt doesn’t do much. A woman I know says “guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.” Rather than feeling guilty, why not be active and do something to support gay rights — say maybe donate 10% of your movie ticket cost and other moneys spent on Twilight to Marriage Equality USA or another gay rights group?
      It’s hard to say where exactly Meyer stands on gay rights as, to my knowledge, she has never publicly said anything on the subject. However, tithing to the church means profits from Twilight going towards anti-gay legislation.
      But, I like you, enjoy the series (I am actually writing a book on it). But often the things we love also promote things we hate — just as Twilight profits support homophobia or chocolate profits support child/slave labor. What we can do to mitigate these negatives is to be active for the change we want. Even talking about these issues is a step in the right direction I think — Twilight fans could be a huge boon to LGBTQ rights if given the chance… I don’t think the fandom is homophobic as a whole (most fans I have met are wonderful, accepting people), nor necessarily is Meyer, but the Mormon church certainly is.
      Thanks for commenting. And, if you love Twilight, you might like my other blog: seducedbytwilight.wordpress.com

  16. “white, male, hetero privilege” … I can’t tell you how much I hate hearing that phrase thrown around as a one stop shop for the reason why everything has gone wrong.

    Let me be perfectly clear : hate is hate. Hate speech is hate speech.

    As a white hetero male, I have supported same sex marriage, I am pro choice, and I have enough of a brain to separate fiction stories from everyday life. I am anti religion , because of the pain and suffering that religion has brought to this world – and not just to the GBLT community.

    Yet every day without fail someone will point a finger at me and scream “White hetero male keeping women down” and other such drivel without even taking the time to note that I am supporting their views. The amount of hate that is being generated towards hetero white males is quickly becoming on par with the hate being generated towards same sex couples. The only saving grace is that the people who are anti-male are non violent. Still it could only be a matter of time until the beatings start.

    How do you expect white hetero males to support your point of view when you go around promoting hate against them? When you use them as a blanket bad guy you are just promoting the same negativity that is being cast against you.

    Role reversal is not equality. Change is needed both socially and politically so that the treatment of women / girls is changed from objectified property to equal human beings – but generic male hate is not the path to that.

    I continue to support my gay/lesbian friends. I continue to attend their weddings, mingle with them socially, and use my vote to establish basic human rights / civil rights for them. I continue to educate people against the societal brainwashing that mass media feeds us every day. I do this without hate , or bias. Also look around you , there are many other groups of people who eschew the norm and are beaten or even killed for it. I support the people who are working in the memory of Sophie Lancaster.

    I won’t stand for the objectification and commercialism of women, but at the same time I will not stand for the generic vilification of all males. As much as you would argue and fight against someone who would say ” all women are (whatever) ” , you should acknowledge the white hetero males who support you and your goals, and not promote generic hate towards them.

    There are more of us than you realize.

  17. I am going to be blunt here. It sounds like somebody wants a cookie. Do we have to preface every analysis of oppression with “and there are great men/white people/straight people/religious people/cisgender people” etc. I have seen this done (especially in anti-violence movements) and I am tired of it.

    People who benefit from privilege (which is all of us) shouldn’t need acknowledgment for being a decent person/engaging in positive actions. We should do it because it is the right thing to do. And we should do so without feeling defensive when our privilege is called out.

      1. Perhaps I am a little less patient today than on other days but I am feeling very frustrated by people taking important anti-oppression analysis and making it all about them and getting defensive.

        For what it is worth, I have never taken anything you have written to be “against men” (etc). Rather, you are speaking out against heteronormative, fat phobic, patriarchal, racist, ableist social structures, and those individual and collective acts (including media) that perpetuate them.

        Just as we shouldn’t have to acknowledge that there are men who don’t rape women when we talk about sexualized violence, we shouldn’t have to water down social oppressions so that people don’t feel personally attacked when we are talking about oppression and privilege.

        I fear that being careful not to upset the men/straight people/white people/cisgender people/etc will make our messages all about them, when for once it isn’t.

      2. Wow Monika, greatly said!!! Glad also to hear that I am not the only one impatient w/ these types of comments…

  18. Dante Allegro,

    Thank you for your comment.
    I understand that the ““white, male, hetero privilege” can seem like a short-term catch all phrase and I admit that I am guilty of using it too readily without unpacking it enough. However, what I intend to convey by the use of this phrase is that certain categories of identity give one more privilege and that these privileges overlap in complex ways. The more “privileged categories” one fits, the more privilege one generally has in society.
    I do not see the use of this phrase as “hate speech” – nor to I hate white, hetero, males – my son is one, my partner is one!
    I understand your frustration in regards to feeling like you are accused, as a white hetero male, of “keeping women down.” I don’t aim to do this in my writing or teaching. But, I do admit that in trying to “short-hand” the arguments and issues, I am guilty of throwing around the “white hetero male” label without explanation.
    As you imply, WHMs can and are often supportive of progressive, feminist causes. Some of my heroes in this vein are WHMs – Howard Zinn, Jackson Katz, Noam Chomsky, etc.
    I agree that there “hate that is being generated towards hetero white males” but not that it is on par “with the hate being generated towards same sex couples.” Individual ire is certainly directed at WHMs but society on the whole still champions and supports them as the rightful owners of privilege…
    As per your claim that “ The only saving grace is that the people who are anti-male are non violent.Still it could only be a matter of time until the beatings start” – firstly, who are these “anti-male people” you refer to? If you mean feminists, they do tend to abhor violence, but not all feminist groups have historically been pacifists… And in terms of the claim beating will start soon, will, this seems pretty far-fetched – it dismisses the privilege of WHM that protects them from certain types ofviolence while also condoning the violence they enact against others…
    Finally, I don’t feel I promote hate against WHMs. What I try to do is to examine the systems of power and privilege, not to attack or accuse individual people.
    As for your argument that “Role reversal is not equality. Change is needed both socially and politically so that the treatment of women / girls is changed from objectified property to equal human beings – but generic male hate is not the path to that.” – I agree.
    I am wondering why you see this post as promoting “generic hate” and wonder if you have suggestions for another way I can indicate privileges that come with certain identities in a way that does not come off as accusatory…

  19. im not a twilight fan, i hate twilight.
    “Meyer has on multiple occasions stated that, in accordance with her Mormon belief, 10% of all her profits for all things Twilight go to the Mormon church.” so what? its her religion. dont like that everyone in the worlds doesnt love queers like you? sucks because you cant change it. dont like the way she spends her money? dont go see twilight and quit complaining about it. your better off just staying in whatever hole you came from than even attempting to carrry on an intelligent conversation. i highly doubt twilight will have as big of an effect on same sex marriage as our morals of just being human will. its not morally right. clearly we werent meant to be with the same sex or men could have children. but i guess you just needed someone to blame it on and decided to pick on something else you hate. i feel sorry for your little girl.

    1. I am not a fan of people who use such a condescending, insulting tone. And, you miss the point of the post entirely. I don’t hate twilight — if you had read this or my other blog, you might know this. And your last line — is that really necessary? Seems your name does not fit you very well.

  20. First off, thank you for your well thought out reply.

    To answer your question : “if you have suggestions for another way I can indicate privileges that come with certain identities in a way that does not come off as accusatory…” … the answer is in your own words :

    “I do admit that in trying to “short-hand” the arguments and issues, I am guilty of throwing around the “white hetero male” label without explanation. ”

    It’s the same process that we all should go through – think about what is being said from both points of view. I was once guilty of lump grouping feminists , but I don’t do that anymore. Just keep in mind that when you are discussing the shortcomings of WHMs that you openly, not just in your own mind, acknowledge that not all of us are like that – and by doing that educate both what we are doing wring AND what we are doing right. For example you cite Howard Zinn, Jackson Katz, Noam Chomsky .. but for the uninitiated what have these people done? Anyone can run about showing what is wrong , how it is wrong and why. Show the other side of it. Show with the same enthusiasm and voice that is used in pointing out wrongs, the things that are done that are right.

    It’s not about, as one person said, ” Wanting a cookie ” , it’s about simple acknowledgment. In a perfect world doing the right thing is it’s own reward, but this is not a perfect world. The people who are brave enough to step up and demand change should be supportive of the people who are brave enough to stand by and support them.

    When people say things like ” oh you just want a cookie ” or ” you should do it because it’s right ” they are forgetting that WHMs by supporting the things that are right and divesting themselves of the ” typical ” and ” accepted ” WHM roles alienate themselves from the things they know and the acceptance of their peers. They take abuse from other WHMs for being weak, not being ” real men ” ( a phrase I hate ) , and other forms of alienation and abuse. If what is waiting for them on the other side is more abuse or the treatment of their decision as if it was nothing … then what’s the point?

    It is a long long road – and many things are going to have to change if we are going to fix the problems that society as a whole has created. The way forward is not paved with retribution, but cooperation, acknowledgment, and mutual respect. Not just for the things that have been done, but for the things that have been endured.

    For every girl that has had a barbie shoved in her hands when she wanted a chemistry set, there is a boy who got punched in the face for saying a woman could be president someday.

  21. Dante,

    Re: “wanting cookies” means wanting recognition, credit, etc. And it’s frustrating when allies want these cookies, particularly since its People of Colour and Aboriginals, LGBTTIQ people, women, people with disAbilities, etc. who deserve the credit for much of the positive change/work and yet it’s the allies who get all the credit.

    And speaking of how gender oppresses all people, I really like this: https://www.reachandteach.com/store/index.php?l=product_images&p=50

    Case in point, at a lot of anti-violence against women conferences, you get a room full of women who are doing underpaid frontline work with women victimized by sexualized and relationship violence, you have women survivors of violence at the hands of men, and you have the occasional man, often in a higher paid government position “demonstrating” that the state really cares about women.

    Despite the fact that survivors of violence and workers are doing this work 24/7, they put in all the time to help women living in and leaving abusive relationship, their hearts while filled with hope are also tarnished by the knowledge of the atrocities human beings can commit, one of the the first things said (and usually said over and over again) is how AMAZING these men are for coming to this conference, for recognizing violence against women is a men’s issue (etc). Very little mention of the women. (Although I do recall a recent conference with a male speaker who said exactly what I just said; while I am not about giving cookies to people, I do think he can have a cookie – after the women get the cake!)

    And for the record, we all simultaneoulsy experience various degrees of oppression and privilege. While I experience sexism and biphobia, I also experience white privilege, class privilege (having been able to go to university), and a host of other privileges. So as much as you may want this to believe that this is about oppressing “straight white men” it is also about calling out the privilege of straight white women, and women with class privilege, and people in the Minority World, cisgender persons, etc. In a nutshell, it isn’t just about you.

    It is about all of us. And while I do agree that cooperation and mutual respect is important in the revolution (it’s next Tuesday – bring cupcakes!), I think it is also important to be angry, to call people (and society) on their shit, and all that ugly stuff that helps us learn and (hopefully) change our ways.

    1. I often get the ” It’s not about you ” reply when I use myself as an example. I’m not trying to pass myself off or get any special treatment for myself. I am trying to show myself as an example of many many more people who are out there who are doing the right thing, for the right reasons and yet end up lump summed into the classification of people who are doing the wrong thing for no more reason than their gender and skin color. I’m trying to be a voice for the WHM out there who are respectful, and while not perfect willing to learn and to change – to become the change that is necessary and to teach that change both to other WHMs and to the WHM youth.

      So it’s not about me – its about people like me, and others who would change if there was something other than more hate or marginalization waiting for them.

      “how AMAZING these men are for coming to this conference, for recognizing violence against women is a men’s issue (etc). Very little mention of the women.”

      How can you say there is little mention of the women when the conference is by , for and about them? How do you think change will take effect if you disregard the people who come there to support? I just don’t understand this.

      Man : ” I believe that violence against women is wrong, and that as men we need to work towards changing the culture, mindset, and attitude towards women in order to put a stop to this. ”

      Woman : ” That’s nice, but you don’t really get it, you never can, and because you are male you are like all other men who cant really understand it so go sit over there in the corner with the other bastards who keep us down and no you can’t have a cookie. Keep doing the right thing! ”

      Yes that is exaggerated, but to me and many others this is how it feels/sounds sometimes. Even here in this forum.

      In a world where violence and objectification of women is the societal norm, the societal teaching, and the view of the mainstream media , it IS amazing that any man has the fortitude to turn against this and stand up for what is right. To take the time to unlearn , and relearn what is right is no small matter.

      Many people I have dealt with have expressed the fear of ‘ coming out of the closet ‘ because of the alienation , humiliation and disgust they will face when they openly admit that they are gay/bi/trans/etc. This is known and accepted.

      There is a similar closet for those who support them. The same alienation , humiliation , loss of family, friends, is waiting for them when they show their love and support. When you add to that the lack of acceptance ( not approval, not cookies, not acknowledgment ) comes from the very people you are standing up to support – it hurts. It makes for silence, and we know full well what that leads to.

      I am not suggesting that every man who ‘does the right thing’ should be put on a pedestal, or that it should overshadow the problems suffering and pain that women have endured — I’ve never said that and never meant it … that has been born of the replies I’m getting. I simply think that lump summing either by accident or intent should be stopped and that when addressing men as a whole an understanding that there are people who , as I like to put it , are male by biology, not school of thought.

      There are white heterosexual males who think with their minds, vote with their hearts, and who love, respect and cherish their GBLT… friends and family. We deserve to be recognized apart from the violent sexist misogynistic racist homophobic people who have only gender in common with us.

      That’s it. No cookies, no parades, no awards, no ceremonies, no insults, nothing more or less. If a person can’t do that then they are no better than the monster that they portend to be fighting.

  22. Quote: “How can you say there is little mention of the women when the conference is by , for and about them? How do you think change will take effect if you disregard the people who come there to support? I just don’t understand this.”

    Because the hundreds of thousands of women in the anti-violence field (to give an example) get less recognition combined than the minority of men involved.

    You say that you are open to listening and learning. Then I ask, if you are consistently told that what you are saying is making it “about you”, at what point do the voices of others hold some merit?

    Like you, I can choose to be offended when my privilege is called out; I can say “hey! But I am an anti-racist ally”. But the fact of the matter is that I benefit because I am white. No matter how anti-racist I am, I still participate in and benefit from racism.

    Yes, there are white straight men doing good work. And there are lesbians of Colour, persons with disAbilities, transpeople (etc) who don’t get any recognition for saying the exact same things that “allies” say. And guess who ends up getting the recognition?

    I have witnessed this in mixed gender groups; time and time again, a man will say something a woman or many women have said over and over and the women will applaud him (without acknowledging the women’s voices). Women too are defenders of the patriarchy. And if this is called out, far too often, the men get defensive as if this is all about them, and not about systemic issues that need to be addressed by all of us, which would actually mean listening to the voices of people with less social power.

    In women only spaces, I have seen the voices of white women privileged over Women of Colour and Aboriginal women. Same thing goes.

    Nothing the professor writes says “white straight men are evil”. What I hear her write is the “racist, heterosexist, homo/bi/transphobic, cissexist, patriarchy is bad, and this is where it exists in media”. There is a difference.

    You and I have a lot in common; I too get that defensive, uncomfortable feeling when being called out. But I can shut up and listen to others, or continue to defend my privilege. I am not perfect, but I think that this discussion provides a perfect example of what NOT to do when discussing privilege.

    1. The difference is , I’m not defending my privilege, nor discussing it.

      It’s not about me, as I said. It’s about many people like me who are marginalized by both sides for supporting the idea of ending the objectification of women.

      If you were to ask me about my opinion on privilege:

      I dislike the privilege game, because it is often used as a catch 22. You can tell a person that they have privilege, and that is bad , but you also tell them that they can’t get rid of it and because of it nothing they can ever do will be good enough.

      It’s the equivalent of a child on a playground getting frustrated and claiming that they have an ‘ everything-proof-shield’ and any attack on them bounces back and hurts the attacker and no attack-backs.

      To me using privilege in a debate is similar to Goodwin’s law of online discussions.

      It’s pointless because all people have some form of advantage or another, which could be labeled as privilege. We all have a place where we hold power over others. What we do with that power is the mark that separates us.

      I have a vast technical knowledge which, if you will, allows me the privilege to exist easily within the current high-tech culture. I can use that to be a hacker, steal credit card numbers, perform acts of identity theft … or I can use it to teach others, educate future technologists , defend against theft or loss. The privilege is not the defining of the person, how they exercise it is. As a white hetero male I can exist easily within the current culture. I can use that to propagate the hatred and idiocy that is within it, or I can make a stand and fight against it. Again – the difference is in the person , not the perceived privilege.

      Simply because a person has privilege does define them, or what they do. If a person abuses it , or uses it to further things that are wrong, then that is something wrong with them and they should be “called out”. If a person educates themselves and becomes an agent for change then that is a path that should be acknowledged and supported.

      In short, you can continue to try to make enemies or you can accept that some do not fit the molds and stereotypes and make room for them at the table with everyone else.

      1. That should read :

        Simply because a person has privilege does not define them, or what they do. If a person abuses it , or uses it to further things that are wrong, then that is something wrong with them and they should be “called out”. If a person educates themselves and becomes an agent for change then that is a path that should be acknowledged and supported.

  23. I don’t know how to make it any clearer. By saying “I feel attacked when you call out _____ privilege” you ARE making it about you.

    And yes, having privilege does not mean that you can’t do amazing ally work. But you are consistently denying the fact that you benefit because of your sex, being white, and straight. You benefit just as I benefit from class, white, and cisgender privilege. I am not saying you are bad, and I am good; I am saying, you can be even better by listening.

    Perhaps this will make more sense:

    Unhelpful things to do as an ally:

    1) Becoming defensive when one’s privilege is called out, whether it is specifically about you or about a privileged group as a whole.
    2) Expecting recognition for not being a “bad guy”
    3) Not listening to the voices of oppressed groups
    4) Demanding that oppressed groups see how you too are oppressed
    5) Going onto an anti-oppressive blog and insinuating that the author is oppressive because she calls out patriarchal, racist, fat phobic, ableist, heterosexist, cissexist capitalism
    6) Taking up verbal space where your voice is stronger than others with less social power (this is a BIG issue, and one that many people with privilege don’t acknowledge)
    7) Calling out when you are given cookies for being a “good guy” and saying that you are saying the same things that people who experience oppression are saying, and that they deserve the credit, also (especially since more often than not when men/white people/straight people say the same thing as oppressed people say, the oppressed people’s voices are not given credit, but the white/male/straight voice is
    8) Expecting oppressed people to educate you about their oppressions.
    9) Saying things like “how could women at an anti-violence conference not receive any credit when the conference is by and about them” (paraphrased). Believe me when I say that I go to conferences where NO ONE credits the women and the few men in the audience get standing ovations. This happens A LOT.
    What is helpful:
    1) Recognizing that your voice is more powerful in certain groups of people (e.g. when you are a man in a group of women) and listening rather than taking up vocal space (This is something that is a life long process; I haven’t figured it out perfectly, but I am working on it).
    2) Recognizing how you have benefited from the oppressions of others
    3) Making positive changes (e.g. supporting Queer friends, voting for same sex marriage, etc.) without wanting recognition for being a decent human being
    4) Reflecting on the fact (as you mentioned before) that you are consistently told that you are making it all about you, and hearing those comments and changing how you dialogue about oppression
    5) Stand up to homophobia, racism, classism, ableism, cisgenderism, fat phobia, even when it feels really uncomfortable.

    Perhaps you are doing some of these things, perhaps all. That is great. You should be, as we all should be. And no, being straight, white and male doesn’t define you exclusively, but it is a pretty big thing when we look at the history and contemporary manifestations of oppression. And it is pertinent to discussions of privilege and oppression.

    Once again, this isn’t all about you. This is about all white people, all straight people, all people with class privilege, (etc). I fit into to some of these categories and I am still working on it. It is a life long process.

    For other great ideas, I encourage you to visit:

    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2009/10/01/the-do%E2%80%99s-and-don%E2%80%99ts-of-being-a-good-ally/

    http://lesbianlife.about.com/od/trans/ht/TransAlly.htm

    And the excellent “how not to be an ally”:

    http://uppitybrownwoman.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/how-to-be-an-ally/

    For the record, I am glad that you are engaging in this discussion, but I am sad that I don’t think you are able to listen beyond your defensiveness. I hope I am wrong.

  24. Let me answer these … because there are some good points and some misunderstandings :

    1) Becoming defensive when one’s privilege is called out, whether it is specifically about you or about a privileged group as a whole.

    I became defensive because of the lump summing of all WHM’s into a single group, which was not intended but happened. It was admitted that it sometimes happens, and the core of my objection.

    2) Expecting recognition for not being a “bad guy”

    Sorry, I won’t budge on this. In a world full of bad guys the good guys should be recognized. Also it should be good/bad people, not ” guys ” as guys kinda also points to males specifically. ” There is good and bad in everyone “.

    3) Not listening to the voices of oppressed groups

    If I wasn’t listening, we would not be having this discussion.

    4) Demanding that oppressed groups see how you too are oppressed

    Why not? How do you think that I learned about it? I can’t stand people who think that every single WHM has a free pass 100% easy perfect life and they are completely under their thumb. It just doesn’t happen that way.

    5) Going onto an anti-oppressive blog and insinuating that the author is oppressive because she calls out patriarchal, racist, fat phobic, ableist, heterosexist, cissexist capitalism

    Not what I did at all. The author is clearly NOT being oppressive, but was lump summing all WHMs into a single group of guilty people. There may have been some confusion there. I agree with the author on just about everything except the lump summing of all WHM’s – which the author admitted in a comment that they do it now and then – and not intentionally.

    6) Taking up verbal space where your voice is stronger than others with less social power (this is a BIG issue, and one that many people with privilege don’t acknowledge)

    I totally don’t understand this. Please explain.

    7) Calling out when you are given cookies for being a “good guy” and saying that you are saying the same things that people who experience oppression are saying, and that they deserve the credit, also (especially since more often than not when men/white people/straight people say the same thing as oppressed people say, the oppressed people’s voices are not given credit, but the white/male/straight voice is

    I was calling out for non oppressive WHM’s NOT ‘ getting cookies’ ( I hate that phrase so much )

    8) Expecting oppressed people to educate you about their oppressions.

    Why not? How else are you supposed to learn? If you can’t walk a mile in their shoes, you can listen to them tell you what it’s like, and what they have experienced. Seriously, how else do people ‘ of privilege ‘ learn about oppressed people? It’s not taught in school, and it’s not something you can see for yourself unless you happen to be one of them. Explain?

  25. 9) Saying things like “how could women at an anti-violence conference not receive any credit when the conference is by and about them” (paraphrased). Believe me when I say that I go to conferences where NO ONE credits the women and the few men in the audience get standing ovations. This happens A LOT.

    I don’t understand how the people who organize, present, and run a conference can be overwhelmed in recognition by the participants. Without their work there would be no conference in which to give a standing ovation. I think that your belief that ” no one credits the women ” is inaccurate.

    Also , you say : “I don’t know how to make it any clearer. By saying “I feel attacked when you call out _____ privilege” you ARE making it about you.”

    What I am trying to say is , if I feel this way, there must be others who feel this way as well, and they may be turned away from becoming allies because of it.

    Also , I’m not trying to make it about me, but when I impart my personal experience many people instantly jump onto that bandwagon. To put it in perspective, if you were holding a rally for rape awareness, and a woman shares her experience in being raped ( emotional, legal, family , community ) is she making it ‘ all about herself? ‘ …. no she is sharing personal experience in an effort to raise awareness. I am doing the same thing when I impart my personal experience, however most time because I’m a WHM and not a victim I get the ” you are making it about yourself ” thrown at me instantly, where if I were not a WHM I would be taken otherwise – and I think that is not fair.

  26. And for the rest :

    1) Recognizing that your voice is more powerful in certain groups of people (e.g. when you are a man in a group of women) and listening rather than taking up vocal space (This is something that is a life long process; I haven’t figured it out perfectly, but I am working on it).

    Me too, but let me assure you I am in PLENTY of situations where the women in the group are the more powerful in the group. Also despite the overshadowing and assumption, I DO listen, and I do learn. That’s how I got this far. I’m far from perfect, but I’m better than most and nothing hurts a cause more than when members of it violate their own systems of belief and I try to point that out when possible. Many people are for role reversal and not equality – thankfully not here.

    2) Recognizing how you have benefited from the oppressions of others

    Working on that. I don’t see it.

    3) Making positive changes (e.g. supporting Queer friends, voting for same sex marriage, etc.) without wanting recognition for being a decent human being

    Again, in a world of more vocal, more recognized, and more respected people who are against such things – I feel that the people who are supportive … ALL of the people who are supportive should be recognized. the reason I want this is so that there will be an end to the lump summing of all WHM’s into the category of oppressor. So a WHM can walk down the street and have a woman look at him and not instantly think ” WHM Oppressor ” Don’t confuse recognition with praise – which honestly I think you are doing. Praise is not what I’m talking about.

    4) Reflecting on the fact (as you mentioned before) that you are consistently told that you are making it all about you, and hearing those comments and changing how you dialogue about oppression

    Previous comment I made, about sharing personal experience. When I share personal experience I get ” oh you are making it all about you ” as a reply, but other people are able to express personal experience without that happening.

    5) Stand up to homophobia, racism, classism, ableism, cisgenderism, fat phobia, even when it feels really uncomfortable.

    I do it daily. I do it because I was taught by people about how and why it happens, and because in my own mind I know it’s the right thing. I am not perfect, and I am a byproduct of my environment like anyone else. I am prone to mistakes, backslipping, and I count on my friends and associates to call me on it when it happens.

    Also, understand that there is racism against WHM’s. I have felt the brunt of that. I have faced ableisim ( wheelchair bound for a year due to spine injury ) , fat phobia ( all my life ) , and I know what it feels like. I’m not some blond hair blue eyed old money frat boy of privilege trying to score points. I believe in ending these things, and I believe in working with – not against the people who are working for true change and not role reversal or generic damnation of people based on gender.

    I also appreciate that all of us here can openly discuss these topics without personal attacks or the usual petty things that happen on the net. It lets me know that I’m talking with the right people.

  27. Monika and Dante,
    Thanks for keeping the conversation going in my absence. And in such a thorough, though-provoking, and anti-attacking fashion. Yeah! You both make many great points regarding how we can go forward together — “WHMs” and non-WHM’s alike!
    Dante,
    Do you have a blog too?

    1. Professor :

      I don’t have a public blog but I do have a personal one, and a friend of mine quoted something that lead me here.

  28. Hi, interesting topic here. I think the Twilight novels are harmless (and boring), but I do find many misogynistic messages. I often point them in out in my English Composition courses to students. Nevertheless, I’m a little concerned with some of the rhetorical phrasing used in this post; I don’t think it’s intentional, but many claims are a bit sensational.

    To support proposition 8 is not synonymous with homophobia. The church teaches religious marriage is between a man and a women, but rights are a separate issue. The church has been pretty vocal about this too: see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/us/12utah.html Also, the amount the church spent on proposition 8 was greatly exaggerated, the actual amounts and reports are clarified here: http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/media-reports-on-proposition-8-filing-uninformed
    and here: http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/church-clarifies-proposition-8-filing-corrects-erroneous-news-reports.

    So to summarize: LDS church likes hetero marriage, supports gay rights (though many may argue you can’t separate the two, which is fine, but I’d refer people to read Foucault’s theories), Twilight is arguably anti-feminist. Now that everyone is asleep, I’ll move on. Great blog, keep up the good work🙂.

  29. I really don’t see how legally denying same-sex marriage can be seen as anything but oppressive. To steal a quote from the disAbility rights movements “Seperate is never equal.”

    I support the right of faith communities to not perform marriage ceremonies. I do see this as oppressive, but hey, that is probably why I am an atheist. However, the state absolutely must allow same-sex marriage. To deny this is homophobic.

    As for the LDS “position”, I did a quick google and found: http://mormonism.suite101.com/article.cfm/mormon_beliefs_about_gay_marriage
    “physical intimacy is reserved for the sacred institution of marriage between a man and a woman.”

    I don’t really see how they can be pro gay rights if gay people can’t get married or be intimate with each other?

    BTW, I am not just attacking LDS. I am attacking all faiths and other institutions which deny people who are LGBTTIQQ the same rights as people who are straight.

    Monika

  30. I wasn’t amazed by the twilight series, and when the fangirls all started going nuts over it (yeah, I read it before the swarms of impressionable tweens got their mitts on it) i became even less keen on it. But now knowing that it – perhaps unwittingly – supports heteronormative views? I like it even less! and feel vaguely ashamed that all four books sit on my book shelf.

    Heteronormative views need to be challenged more often and overcome. It saddens me to think that this probably won’t happen in my lifetime and that myself and my friends are going to have to deal with this kind of discrimination and not given the respect or dignity that we deserve as much as any other human being. I’m not even American but the fact that something like prop 8 can be even considered in a supposedly free country disgusted me.

    Religion is supposed to be about loving God and God loving you, isn’t it? So why are religions so slow to accept that? http://revolutionchurch.com/ These guys have got it right, at least. It’s a shame that other Christians can’t see God like the people at Revolution do.

    Anyway, sleep deprived ramble over🙂

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