I was reading a recently published study, “Good Girls: Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus,” by Elizabeth A. Armstrong and colleagues in Social Psychology Quarterly.
It was based on a longitudinal study of 53 women who enrolled at a Midwest university in 2004.
“Slut discourse was ubiquitous among the women we studied,” these scholars found, though interestingly they say the label was fluid, shifting around rather than attaching permanently to a particular woman or set of women.
Instead these mostly sexually experienced, typical American college women used “slut discourse” to define “their virtue against real or imagined bad girls.” I am not like one of those girls, in other words. Nonetheless, “women feared public exposure as sluts. Virtually all expressed a desire to avoid a ‘bad reputation.’”
One of the things girls and young women have to negotiate in the way we live now is the pervasiveness of raunch and the absence of rules. Nobody knows how much sex it takes to turn you into a “slut,” a state of affairs that, while it can be anxiety-provoking, also allows women to have quite a lot of it while still retaining their own self-image as good girls.
I thought of that study, and of the anxieties young women navigate, while watching the twin performances at MTV’s Video Music Awards (via YouTube, naturally) of Queen Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.
These two have had a curiously entwined history, for performers so different, what with Beyoncé graciously stepping in to share her spotlight with the young Taylor Swift in 2009, after Kanye West dissed Swift for beating out Beyoncé in the best-female-video category.
Camille Paglia actually compared Swift unfavorably to Beyoncé in a 2012 column, which accused Swift’s “bleached out” persona of “ruining women.”
For a woman scarcely a quarter century in age, Swift has been a lightning rod for a remarkable amount of criticism, ranging from the Village Voice’s criticism of her “traditional femininity” to the vile Westboro pretending-to-be-Baptist church’s protests of Taylor Swift as “the whorish face of doomed America.” Her dating life somehow came to be the subject of national gossip, because, well, she would go out with a guy for a year and then break up with him and get another boyfriend, stay with him for a year and break up. She was 22 at the time these shocking accusations started rocketing through cyberspace.
The irony of trying to slut-shame Taylor Swift is that not only is she a fine songwriter and performer, she is the ultimate nice girl.
A Utah judge bizarrely casts opposition to polygamy as racist.
Judge Clark Waddoups, in striking down Utah’s ban on “spiritual” polygamous marriages, noted that the Republican party was founded with the goal of eliminating the “twin relics of barbarism” — slavery and polygamy.
He didn’t mean it as a compliment to the GOP.
Waddoups, appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush in 2008, is clearly deeply hostile to laws that limit marriage to monogamous couples. Laws against polygamy are not just wrong, they are also racist, he writes in his ruling.
Why, he asks, did the United States oppose polygamy so fiercely that it hounded Utah Mormons into abandoning the practice as a condition of statehood? Using Edward Said’s work as a conceptual framework, Waddoups answers:
19th-century hostility to polygamy was based, in part, on polygamy’s association with non-white races. As the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in Reynolds v. United States, “Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people.”
When he notes that the Republican party was founded in opposition to slavery and polygamy, he doesn’t see in that pairing the irony of his casting moral opposition to polygamy as racism.
I stayed silent, like a lot of white folks, while events unfolded in Ferguson, Mo.
I was flabbergasted at the anger of the protesters and their certainty, which seemed to doubt any narrative but the one presented by the family attorney, who replayed his Trayvon Martin appearance: Brown was “executed in broad daylight.”
A young man — not a boy — lay dead in the streets of a quiet suburb that, whatever its flaws, does not fit our usual image of the inner-city crime scene. Ferguson is a quiet, majority-black, middle-class suburb full of educated, hard-working, law-abiding, decent Americans of all races.
People like me did not see how to respond to the unfolding story in a way that might make sense, might make things better. This is the polarized America we live in, one in which factions with dueling narratives battle for political power so they can beat the delegitimized other into submission and silence. The worst are full of passionate conviction.
I could not dismiss the good people of Ferguson as just a mob, and I could not understand how a decent cop would just shoot a man for no reason at two in the afternoon. The dueling narratives seemed to exclude many of us. Consider the video of what police describe as Mike Brown roughing up a store clerk who is trying to get him to pay for cigarettes. If you see this video – and the decision to release it — as anything other than an outrageous effort to taint the jury pool, then you, too, are one of the terrible people who think black lives don’t matter.
A family member of mine, who was born in India, noticed what others without his experience might’ve missed: “That Indian clerk he roughed up was so small. He must have been so scared.” There is no organized lobby for South Asian store clerks who make a modest living serving neighborhoods of every color. (Ask Joe Biden.)
The Left applies lessons learned from gay-marriage victories to the next war.
Politico treated it the way we treat news stories nowadays, in our celebrity-driven culture in which a beloved actor’s suicide can drive front-page news for a whole week: “Media Matters’ David Brock expands empire,” it reported.
David Brock may not be exactly an A-lister, but he is one of a contemporary cluster of insiders who have changed the way the “mainstream media” game is played. Bias, once the offshoot of genteel groupthink, has become progressively, aggressively organized.
Under the old model, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which played a key role in bringing down Jack Abramoff and the once powerful GOP congressmen Tom DeLay and Bob Ney, felt the old-school need to burnish its credibility by targeting some Democrats alongside a majority-Republican target list. (CREW’s widely covered “Most Corrupt Members of Congress” lists included 25 Democrats among its 88 featured members since 2005.)
No more. Brock was elected chairman of the board after laying out a new aggressively partisan plan to transform CREW into what the Washington Examiner called a Democratic “lapdog.” From Politico:
The reconfigured CREW, which is searching for a new executive director, will add a more politically oriented arm, expand its focus into state politics and donor targeting and will operate in close coordination with Brock’s growing fleet of aggressive Democrat-backing nonprofits and super PACs — Media Matters, American Bridge and the American Independent Institute.
“CREW gives us some potentially powerful tools in the tool box,” said Brock, who founded his flagship organization Media Matters in 2004. “We have been in the accountability [business] for 10 years very successfully. It is kind of a one-stop-shop now.”
From the National Review Online
Pope Francis has called for a reexamination of how the Church treats Catholics who have divorced and (civilly) remarried. Because a valid marriage between baptized Christians is considered indissoluble, a Catholic who remarries after a civil divorce is living in open adultery and so may not take communion. A synod of bishops this October will lay the groundwork for all the world’s bishops to gather in 2015 and consider how the Church treats sex and marriage.
This new call has sparked enough conversation about prominent thinkers, from theNew York Times’ Ross Douthat to this July 30 commentary by Peter Berger, to make me think that my two cents, my widow’s mite, is worth offering.
This conversation takes place in a particular context: first, the challenge to the Catholic Church to combine truth and love, teaching and mercy.
The overall trend in the Catholic Church has been to hold tight to dogma but retreat from discipline, leaving more matters to the individual conscience of the believer, who has presumably both the teaching of the Church and the door of the confessional always open for him to receive Christ’s forgiveness for his or her sins. Hence the American bishops have mostly resisted calls to refuse the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians like Nancy Pelosi, and even disciplined priests who withheld communion from partnered lesbians.
I personally don’t think this dogma-without-discipline plan has worked that well, overall, especially given the failure of the Church to communicate its teaching to the children in its schools and to the people in its pews on Sunday, and sometimes apparently to priests in its seminaries. But nobody made me a bishop, and it is understandable, at least in theory, given the havoc the sexual revolution (not to mention consumerism) has wreaked in ordinary people’s lives.
But that strategy doesn’t work at all for the problem of divorced and remarried Catholics. Remarried Catholics cannot just go to confession for their sins, because they intend by their public act of remarriage to keep on sinning against their original vow.
From the National Review Online:
“Red state” values supposedly increase divorce risk, but the least religious couples are equally vulnerable.
An April 2014 Urban Institute study predicts that if current marriage rates do not rebound, just 69 percent of Millennial women (and 65 percent of men) will marry by the age of 40. By contrast, in 1990, 91 percent of U.S.-born women had married by the age of 40.
Almost none of this retreat from marriage will be felt among college-educated white Americans. The majority of college-educated Millennials will marry and have their children in marriages that last until the death of one partner.
Meanwhile, the average American lives in a world where sex is plentiful but stable families are not, leading many a Millennial to conclude that there is little point in marriage at all. You can’t fail at what you don’t attempt.
John Corvino, the co-author of my latest book, takes on Catholics like Michael Hannon, who in First Things essay “Against Heterosexuality” try to use queer theory to dismantle homosexuality as a “real” category in Commonweal (John is an ex-Catholic and an ex-seminarian as he makes clear):
“Hannon argues that religious conservatives should embrace queer theorists’ view that sexual orientation is a social construction, rather than a natural and inevitable feature of persons. Furthermore, they should stop categorizing anyone as gay, because doing so organizes that person’s sexual identity around a particular temptation to sin, leading him to believe that he needs that sin in order to be fulfilled. Finally, and most important, they should stop categorizing anyone as heterosexual, because doing so lets people off the hook as “normal,” thus blinding them to their own sin. . .
Hannon, who is a candidate for religious life with the Norbertine order, is hardly the first Catholic to invoke queer theory in support of conservative causes. Back in the late 1990s, when the essentialist/constructionist debate was still fresh, my old sparring partner Maggie Gallagher made a similar point at a Georgetown University conference on “Homosexuality and American Public Life.””
Small point, I don’t recall making this point in that conference but it’s years ago and I don’t still have a copy of that talk (and neither does John).
In any case I agree with John Corvino more than I disagree with him in this piece on his main point, although he seems to interpret a discussion of how Christians should think about same-sex attraction and the people who have it with an attempt to determine how everyone thinks about it.
Even if the broader culture accepts homosexuality as a social fact, which is clearly the case whether Hannon likes it or not, that does not settle how Catholics should think about it.
Here’s my view: When Christians tell me that homosexuality is “socially constructed” and therefore not a “real” permanent feature of human existence, I generally respond “I know gay people exist the same way that I know that Methodists exist. I’ve met them.”
In other words, not all categories that are real are founded on fixed unchangeable essences. Sexual orientation as a concept is a way of organizing “given reality” (sexual attraction) into a communal identity, the strongest kind. It is therefore not at all like race, and but rather more akin to religion.
I never ever think of myself as a heterosexual, nonetheless my own ideas about my experience of sexuality (“we are born male and female and called to come together in love in this thing called marriage”) are core enough to my identity and my sense of what is required for communal good that I am willing to suffer rather than renounce them, if necessary. They are not positions I hold, they are part of who I am.
Corvino acknowledges that in a gay-affirming culture more people will label their feelings as gay and grow up to live a gay life, which he sees as the great moral advance on the subject and orthodox Catholics see as Not a Good Thing. (Although the openly gay community of priests, brothers, and seminarians in Corvinos’ seminary by his account applauded his coming out).
I do not have strong feelings whether Hannon is right or whether orthodox gay Catholics like Eve Tushnet are right in thinking she should retain her lesbian identity while committing herself to faithful Christian practice (meaning in her current situation, celibacy).
But as an atheist, that is not the question that John Corvino is thinking about.
From the National Review Online.
I was in the Eisenhower Lounge of the National Republican Club, where the executive directors of the RNC, the NSRC, the NRCC, the RGA, and the RSLC called a press conference to announce: The Rs think Republicans are going to win in November.
Mamie Eisenhower in her sweet pink ball gown smiled gently down on the solid show of middle-aged men in suits, blue or grey, and ties ranging from red to auburn (only the NRCC’s Leisl Hickey broke the monotony). While the press turnout is good (the conference closes with a question from Luke Russert), the stories afterward were thin, with the Hill presenting dueling interpretations, “GOP Presents United 2014 Front,” and “GOP Primary Wounds Still Smarting.”
The latter referred to the unforced PR error by the NRSC’s Rob Collins in responding with visible venom to a reporter’s inevitable tea-party question. “The for-profit conservative base here in D.C., we’re never gonna get along with, at least this cycle,” Collins said, before backtracking slightly: “That’s not true, there are some that will have a role to play in the general election. But some of the louder voices, it has not been good for their bottom line to get along with [us], so they choose not to.”
In their new book Marriage Markets, law professors June Carbone and Naomi Cahn point out perhaps the single most important fact about the state of 21st century American marriage: it’s bifurcating.
It is not just that marriage among the poor has disappeared, although it has. It is not just that marriage is declining dramatically among the middle third of American society, although it is. Divorce rates continue to rise and out of wedlock births are becoming the new middle-American normal.