Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Worst. Mailer. Ever.

I just received the most poorly-designed, poorly-conceived political mailer I have ever seen. The image below is a scan of part of the envelope. This mailer is from the folks who support same-sex marriage! My husband handed this to me, shaking his head, and said, "This is not good."

Is this some kind of secret campaign by the "Yes on 8" forces? (I am ashamed to think that a mailer exhibiting such a lack of taste and style could have been designed by a gay man.) The phone numbers and addresses inside check out, though, so I have to assume for now that it is legitimate. The message inside is equally crappy, angry exhortations about fear and hate. Here is a sample line:

It is by dehumanizing LGBT people--by comparing us to corpses and animals--that the opposition hopes to convince a majority of California voters to eliminate the equal right to marry.

(Oh, perfect. Now they have raised the specter of necrophilia as well. Nicely done, guys!) Actually, the campaign by the anti-gay forces is much more devious. The "Yes on 8" material shows heartwarming pictures of vulnerable children and their worried parents, a visual collage hinting oh-so-subtly at fears of pedophilia. So what absolute moron decided it would help to mail out envelopes with "Man + Animal?" in big bold letters on the cover?

Those who want to defend our right to marry should show all the pictures of the happy couples, surrounded by supportive family and friends. The message should be positive and welcoming. Now is not the time for anger and indignation, however righteous and heartfelt. I saw this ugly mailer and thought, "I hope to God this really was narrowly targeted to previous donors, as it appears to be. Otherwise this could cost us dearly."


Pombat said...

Oh good god, they're crazy. I'm with you Dr.S, that's totally awful. At first glance, I assumed it to be an anti-gay marriage mailer.

Why do so many of the anti types equate gayness and paedophilia anyway? I've never quite understood that one - as someone who fancies men, in much the same way as gay men fancy men I should imagine, I don't find boys at all attractive, so why would a gay man find a boy attractive? Don't get it. Also don't get why so many anti-gays equate gayness with every 'perversion' they can think of: being gay is not a 'perversion' people!

On the topic of children & gay people though (off topic from your post, for which I apologise!), I saw this article in The Age today, about gay people - who cannot legally adopt in Australia yet - being asked to foster due to a shortage of available foster parents. Apparently no harm will be done to a child by gay parents as long as they're not legally recognised...

Oh, my other question on the gays & kids bit that I need to find a bigot to ask: some people's objection to gay people being allowed to raise children seems to be that the children will therefore become gay because that's what they witness at home (they won't ever say it so bluntly, but that's their fear). I'd love to hear them explain how children raised in perfectly happy straight-parent households became gay.

Pombat said...

ps yes, positive and welcoming is exactly what's needed: the people most likely to vote yes for Prop 8 fall into two main groups I think, scared of gays and unfamiliar with gays. Both would be helped by happy pics that they can easily relate to in an "oooh, look, there's a happy human, just like me" way.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I can confirm that, when I came out, I had to explain to a certain parental unit that I was not in fact interested in little boys. I think the connection is that, for many people raised to feel shame about almost everything related to sex, homosexuality and p(a)edophilia make them feel terribly uncomfortable in almost exactly the same way. I suspect people may associate homosexuality with pedophilia because, if they ever wrestled with fleeting homosexual feelings, they probably did so during puberty, at which point attraction to that age group would have been typical and normal.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Pombat says, "I'd love to hear them explain how children raised in perfectly happy straight-parent households became gay."

I think they would answer one of two ways. Those who believe homosexuality is a social disease would probably simply deny that such things ever happen. They usually attribute homosexuality to some sort of dysfunction in the home--some sort of failure on the part of the parents. Blanket denial of the obvious is a very powerful tool and works wonders. (I think of such denial as faith's evil twin--but don't get me started...)

Those less enlightened, of course, just believe homosexuality is a sinful choice--that it is some sort of addiction like liquor or gambling that is strangely tempting but only to "bad" people.

On a related note, I can understand why a straight man, or someone who thinks of himself as straight, might feel "threatened" if he were to feel attraction to another man. That certainly could be disturbing and confusing. (Trust me, I know.) But one thing I have never quite understood is the reverse--how a straight man can feel "threatened" if a gay man were attracted to him. It always seemed to me that it would be flattering, if perhaps a little unnerving at first. But so it goes.

Pombat said...

Your last para perfectly suits a story from my uni days, when I house-shared with a bunch of boys. Turned out that one of the guys I worked with at the student bar was gay. He told me that, having gotten to know my housemates, he felt that he should come out to them (note "should" rather than "could" - he felt it to be his obligation to inform them. Straight people never feel they "should" let someone know they're straight. Anyhow). So, one night at the bar, whilst all stood in a circle with beers in hand, he said something along the lines of "guys, I consider you all friends now, and so I wanted to let you all know that I'm gay." To a man, they all took a step back. Granted, for some of them it was just a little shuffley step, but still a step (I heckled them all about this for a while afterwards). His response? "Oh for god's sake, I don't fancy any of you!!!" (felt very proud of him for that!). Best thing was, two of them then sat down with him for the rest of the night, trying to get him to give reasons for why he didn't fancy them, beyond simply "I just don't" or "you're not my type". It seems that being told, in a very disparaging way, that you are not an object of affection, removes fear of gayness whilst also causing offence and mild attraction-related insecurity.

Women seem to have it easier as far as relating to our gay counterparts goes - for a start, we're brought up much more emotionally than men are (big boys don't cry anyone?), and women tend to be more tactile too. I am of course generalising two genders here, but bear with me. Then of course there's the fact that lesbians aren't taboo - they're 'sexy', even to the point that lesbian innuendo is used in marketing. Two women together is apparently many mens biggest fantasy, assuming they're not smart enough to realise lesbians wouldn't actually be interested in them. We also seem to be more comfortable looking at other women and acknowledging that they're attractive, although it's often in a competitive way, it has to be said.

I think most of the problem straight men (or mostly straight!) have with finding another man attractive is related to the way gayness is viewed generally: amongst the straight community "that's so gay" is never used as a compliment after all. If used at a person, it indicates that he is not being 'manly', which is apparently bad ('manly' effectively translating to 'neanderthal' as far as I can tell, possibly with a bit of yobbo/chav/US equivalent thrown in). If this can change, if society as a whole can recognise that being gay only decides which sex you fancy, rather than all your other lifestyle choices, straight men will become more comfortable with gays. I hope.

As far as the justifications and the paedophilia link - I think you're right on both counts, sadly. I remain convinced that the world would be a much much better place if any and all shame surrounding (healthy, normal, non-paedophilic etc) sex could be spontaneously removed from everyone. Sex would certainly improve for a lot of people!

Although, the "sinful choice - addiction" theory does have some weight: I've seen you with your husband, and you do seem to find him "strangely tempting" ;-)))

Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. S. and Pombat.

Great exchange. Very interesting!

As for the ad in the picture, I would hope that this is a sophisticated campaign that knows that you are gay, Dr. S, and isn't sending this thing to straight voters in Orange County.

As for the gay = pedophile thing, I could make any number of crude jokes about perverted and/or sexually repressed religious figures but I will resist the temptation.

Raised By Republicans said...

(just to clarify - I do not see homosexuality as a perversion. I do however see predatory priests etc that way.)

The Law Talking Guy said...

To be fair, the phrase "that's so gay" is today interchangeable with the (if you think about it) equally troublesome "that's so lame." Neither is necessarily intended by the speaker to be homophobic or hostile to the disabled. Language is not always so straightforward. Who would have thought that describing something as a "bomb" or "fat" would be good? While I agree that homosexuality causes all kinds of troubles for straight men, I am not sure the phrase "that's so gay" is really representative of that phenomenon.

The Law Talking Guy said...

There are a lot of stupid people out there. I am sure that someone thought this mailer was persuasive. It sounds like someone's undergraduate paper in a class about gay studies.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"someone's undergraduate paper" sounds about right. As I said, I just hope it was narrowly targeted to the already-convinced.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"Who would have thought that describing something as a 'bomb' or 'fat' would be good?"

It's amusing that your inclusion of "fat" as a counterexample also expresses modern prejudices. Older connotations of "fat" are well-stocked, rich, and prosperous. Expressions like a "fat harvest" reflect the traditional view of fat as abundance, rather than the modern judgment of over-abundance.

I know LTG is not defending the use of the phrase "that's so gay". He rightly points out that for most people the usage merely reflects insensitivity or misconception, rather than hatred or fear. Still a bad thing, of course.

By the way, Ellen DeGeneres has an excellent video on her show's website regarding Proposition 8. The production values are very simple--just one camera slowly zooming in on her as she stands backstage--and it lasts all of about 15 seconds. What she says is heartfelt:

"Hi, I'm Ellen DeGeneris. I got to do something this year I thought I'd never be able to do: I got married. It was the happiest day of my life. There are people out there raising millions of dollars to try to take that right away from me. You've seen their ads on TV. They are twisting the truth and trying to scare you. I believe in fairness, I believe in compassion, I believe and equality for all people. Proposition 8 does not. Please, please vote NO on Prop. 8."

Now that's the way to do it!

Anonymous said...

I was mightily annoyed to see a Yes on Prop 8 ad when I was watching an episode of "CSI" on the tivo.

The thrust (sorry, couldn't resist) of the ad's argument was about as sophisticated as that woman on The Simpsons who always screams, "Won't somebody pleeeeeeeeeeeease think of the children!" There was some sort of claim that public schools will have to teach homosexuality to elementary school kids, that this is part of the homosexual agenda,* blah blah blah. How depressing.

-Seventh Sister

*The phrase "homosexual agenda" always makes me think of some fabulous red leather-bound diary from Smythson.

The Law Talking Guy said...

For most people, the phrase "that's so gay" is like saying that they were "gypped." A lot of people don't even realize the latter is a comment on gypsies (they've never seen it spelled). Frankly, the same sort of thing happens when any person tries to "act dumb" by affecting a southern accent (or act "smart" by affecting a British one).

When we play poker at my place, one of our running jokes is to call the game "Indian Poker" instead "Native American Poker." The joke, of course, is that this act of political correctness does nothing whatever to correct the actual problem with the phrase. (The phrase "Indian summer" is said by some to denote a phony or false summer, in the way that Indians were thought of as phony or false - e.g., "Indian giver" - but that may or may not be true fo rthe phrase "Indian summer." We don't know if its origin is in this nasty image or just fact that the "Indian summer" takes place during harvest season when white folks were working too hard and non-farming Indians were not).

I believe "that's so gay" is more loaded today, but honestly a lot of very dumb people use the phrase and probably never make the mental connection. Like the phrase "white trash" that is 100% horrible if you think about it, but people never do.

(As RBR pointed out over the weekend, "white trash" is used to distinguish poor whites from poor blacks. Poor blacks are already trash in this worldview, so the phrase "black trash" does not exist - indeed it would suggest that other, better black folks exist).

I know this is a total side-thread, so forgive me for going there, but I think it's worth realizing (1) that language has fascinating origins, but (2) that psychological explanations can be overblown. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a genuinely stupid phrase (like calling a good thing "wicked," or the phrase "as cold as hell," or praising a man's prowess by calling him a "badass") doesn't betoken much by the speaker except parroting his or her peers.

USWest said...

This is an interesting discussion. Two things: one about comfort levels and homosexuality. The second about Prop 8.

I have worked, I am sure, with many homosexuals and never knew it. In the instances where I did know it, I will admit that I was more comfortable with gay men than lesbians. With the men, you don't need to make a statement that you are straight. They aren't interested in you. With the women, you sometimes have to state your orientation, or you feel you should just to clear things up. In fairness, it isn't like any of us wear a label on our foreheads that states our orientation. I once had a lesbian colleague who was unattached and who I think was attracted to me and would say things like, "ever considered trying out our side of the fence?" or "I'd love to take you to a gay bar. You'd get hit on so much!" How could I, or anyone else for that matter be comfortable with that? A male colleague, straight or gay, would never say such things. I think that was a quirk of just this one woman. It is not a general trait. I agree pretty much with what Pombat said on the subject. It is much more flattering than threatening. But it also depends on the source and the method of delivery. Any advance can be uncomfortable, straight or gay.

The discussions about Prop 8 still goes on in my home with my boyfriend and I batting it about. I am voting no. He is voting yes. He is stuck on the "sanctity of marriage" as the underpinning of our civilization. Secretly, I think those for prop 8 see the granting of a civil right to someone else as the cheapening of their civil rights. A better way to put it would be that by leveling the playing field, straight people are being made to lower themselves rather than gay people being allowed to lift themselves. That is really the crux of it; arrogance. That is behind all arguments against granting others civil rights.

I keep pointing out to my well educated, well traveled boyfriend, that this is an argument he cannot win because his argument lacks logos. The ancient Greeks had one of the greatest civilizations as did the Romans and in both instances, homosexuality and bisexuality were accepted and democracy was intact (except after Caesar). Ah, he says, but they weren't allowed to marry. He isn't against homosexuality, but against letting homosexuals marry. Let them have civil unions. So I turn it around on him.

Ok, I tell him , then can we as a straight couple in the US have a civil union? No. But we could set something like that up. We could establish 50/50 partnership to buy a house; sign a power of attorney over to me, etc. Yes, I tell him, we'd have to have a series of contracts that could later be contested in court by outsiders. A marriage is a one-stop shop for all of that and can't be contested. He agrees. Ok, so you think civil unions should serve a similar purpose, but not be a marriage. Yes, he says. Ok, but then you are just playing semantics.

Consider this, we can't have a civil union because we are straight. That bothers me. Yeah, he says, we should be able to have civil unions too. Ah ha! But that isn't for us. That isn't a civil right that we have. Only gay people have that right. That stinks, doesn't it? Sure does. Well, it stinks for gay people that they don't have the civil right to marriage. Separate but equal was long ago declared unconstitutional. Law is morality. It's law. And there is a whole bunch of law that says you can't discriminate. And we agree that the real threat to our democracy is allowing blatant inequality and discrimination. We set elaborate procedures to accommodate all sorts of people who, I think, have much less of a right to complain than homosexuals do. (For instance, I get a little irritated that my local school is required by law to hire a special teacher for one severely handicapped student and this is at the expense of the other 300 kids in the school. At one point, the majority is harmed by the minority. But our democracy is a constant search for balance in such matters). So, here's my deal. I want everyone to have the same set of options. Therefore, I want the right to a civil union and I want gay people to have a right to marriage. Now we are all equal. How's that? And the we start back over again because he just can't accept letting gay people marry. I also can't get him to explain to me why allowing more people to live in love together, why allowing people to be happy is a bad thing. But that is for another day. But I can't be too hard on him. I have the same visceral reaction to legalized suicide. I know that logically I am off, but it's a gut thing.

Raised By Republicans said...

I have a bunch of Republican relatives. Even the evangelical ones consider themselves at root, libertarians. That is they think the default answer to any question about policy should be in favor of letting the individuals decide without interference from the state. Except with this issue (oh, and abortion...and school prayer). But at least with abortion they base their claims on their beliefs about where life begins. And with school prayer they make a big deal about how it is restrictive to forbid it and so the libertarian position is to allow it.

So I asked one of more intelligent and thoughtful cousins to explain to me what the libertarian argument against marriage rights for gay couples was. "How" I asked, "Does a gay marriage in another state or even right next door, effect the strength of your marriage?" He could not answer the question. Literally. He was tongue tied. Couldn't come up with anything. But he still asserted that gay marriage was bad but now he based his argument on the premise that gay couples make bad parents. "Isn't that social engineering?" I said with a smirk. "Clubs are trump, right?" he said and changed the subject.

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG: I think you go too far to be accommodating on this one. People who say, "That's gay" when they mean, "That's bad," have all made the mental connection between "gay" and "bad" at some point, on some level. I know, I know... One should never underestimate stupidity. But I don't think we should give this behavior a pass. People don't need to be "educated" that it is wrong. They know. They just need to cut it out.

Anonymous said...

I actually think it's a dangerous road for conservatives to go down when they start talking about how gay people are bad parents.

Most gay people have to undergo a great deal more trouble and expense to become parents than your typical straight couple (adoption, fertility treatment, surrogates). To do that, you generally need some above-average income and a pretty stable relationship, two factors which tend to be good for children. You could probably get data fairly easily showing that gays and lesbians are actually superior parents.

By way of anecdote, there were a number of kids with gay parents at my fancy women's college. Most of them (and this is probably generational) were the product of the straight relationship that didn't work out, though a few had lesbian single mothers. They didn't seem any more screwed up than the rest of us, and were actually more likely to be straight than the rest of us.

-Seventh Sister

The Law Talking Guy said...

PLEASE don't take this the wrong way. I have nothing but respect for you and your life, USWEST.

So forgive me for these personal comments, USWest, but your boyfriend's comments really strike me as humorous.

I note from the term "boyfriend" rather than "fiance" that he has not proposed marriage. Curious. Until a generation ago, it was considered an offense to the sanctity of marriage to live together or have sex before marriage. Indeed, virginity for women was (and still is) demanded by those advocating traditional marriage. I don't know if you are living together or having sex, and I'm not asking -certainly not about the latter- but you gotta admit it's a little funny for him to talk about the "sanctity of traditional marriage" in the context of a fairly modern relationship. Indeed, forget sex and cohabitation. Has he so little respect for your virtue that he would spend time with you unchaperoned? Do you expose your ankles around him?

Someone that concerned about the sanctity of marriage ought to go out and buy you a big honking diamond right now. I can talk to him if you want. (Of course, he'd better ask your father first for permission). Remember, the bigger the diamond, the more sanctity in the marriage. Anything less than H/VS2 is no bueno.

Seriously, the meaning of marriage even for straight couples has changed so much in the past 50 years that it is disingenuous to claim that gay marriage is an unprecedentedly radical break from the past. The availability of divorce and advent of equality in marriage are far, far bigger changes.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr.S- I'm not excusing the behavior, just explaining that those who say "That's so gay" may not actually be intending to insult gay people, although they are. They should realize their mistake and stop it. But I've done it myself, I confess. Not proud of it.

The Law Talking Guy said...

"I have the same visceral reaction to legalized suicide. I know that logically I am off, but it's a gut thing."

USWest- I couldn't have said it better myself. That's the problem. We should not be thinking or legislating with our viscera. "Icky" is not a legal term of any merit.

USwest said...

Actually, LTG, I am laughing as I read your post. I don't want to broadcast our future plans, but you are right to point out the modern couple thing. In fact, on some level that has come up in my mind, which is probably why I tend to view marriage as a contractual arrangement more so than an emotional statement. In fact, this is what marriage has been since the dawn of time. It is a contractual statement where the emotion may or may not be present.

Of course, I may have misquoted my boyfriend. He didn't actually say "sanctity of marriage." He said marriage is a "sacrament", which is equally hilarous because he is not a big fan of religion. But I have written about that discussion before.

The point is still well taken.

Dr. Strangelove said...

An open letter to USWest's boyfriend...


Dear Neighbor,

First of all, thank you for supporting civil unions and domestic partnerships. Back when you and I were growing up, most states still considered homosexuality to be a criminal offense. Even where it was legal, no city or state offered any form of recognition to same-sex relationships--and most still don't. More states ban domestic partnerships than offer them. So your support matters, and I am grateful.

But marriage is kind of personal for me. You see, I married my wonderful partner this September at my parents' home in Orange County. Friends and family traveled from Canada, England, Australia, and all over the US to celebrate with us. It was awesome and humbling, and we felt so honored. I guess I did not realize until that day just how much they all loved us and wanted us to be happy.

I understand that not everyone feels the same way about our relationship. In your heart, you may not believe the love and commitment we pledged to each other is good enough to be called marriage. And that's OK. We are not asking you say "YES" to gay marriage. We are just asking you not to say "NO" for all of us, for all time. We are not asking you to lay out the welcome mat... Just please don't shut the door on us yet.

Many people truly believe in their hearts that my marriage is the real deal. Then again, many people believe it is not, or are uncertain. When it comes to matters of the heart like this, I believe the best thing neighbors can do for each other is try to, "Live and let live." If you personally disapprove of my relationship, I will accept that. But I will also ask you please to try to keep that judgment to yourself. Let the state recognize my marriage and yours. California is big enough for all of us.

Dr. S.

Pombat said...

Beautifully written Dr.S. Have you considered writing some material for the No on Prop 8 campaign? Possibly even sending them that little letter? Because that's exactly the kind of thing that needs to be gotten out there - personal, touching, entirely non-aggressive, and sure to be effective against all but the most stone-hearted.

USwest said...

My poor boyfriend is becoming the Joe Plumber of Prop 8. :-)

Dr. Strangelove said...

Thanks Pombat. But I doubt this will even sway its intended recipient though. (Although if he decides to stay out of the "culture wars" and abstain on Prop 8, that would be pretty cool.)

Speaking of gay marriage... I am now off to my (belated) little honeymoon in Las Vegas!

USWest: Certainly not. Assuredly your boyfriend is better looking :-)

Spotted Handfish said...

Interesting discussion on language use of "gay", and facinating the different usages. I know have used the phrase "that's so gay" in recent times. The context either in highlighting something as completely fabulous -- there's a bar in South Melbourne with an amazing collection of bric-a-brac that fits this bill -- and also as a faux criticism. The latter has been to comment on something in conversation, where a level of sarcasm cannot be mistaken, to "criticise" something that could not rationally be criticised. Is this disrespectful or simply an evolution of language, remembering the word meant something else to begin with?

I was in a car with a RAAF fighter pilot last week, and was commenting on the fact that I had been to the US for Dr S's wedding. He works in a completely alpha-male community; my boss's advice on dealing with these guys was to never get into a drinking contest with a pilot: they might die, but they'd win is the general attitude. I sort of expected a little macho-male attitude in return to my comment. In fact his attitude was more that he doesn't care whether someone is gay or not, and he then mentioned that his school age children don't even consider good vs bad in the context of people being gay - they just see them as people.

(BTW thanks LTG for the explanation of Indian summer. I'd always assumed that it meant a long summer from India, which goes to show how much you can assume.)

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