EdgeWise 17.3.2004


What To Do About Same Sex Marriage

Ok, now that I've solved all Feminist problems :), what's to be done about ending persecution of homosexuals? In the context of the current Same Sex Marriage debate, I personally think we need to air more of the of true life stories of those really hurt by not having Same Sex Marriage. Honestly, that last link is something you really need to read. Very touching. You won't be able to look at the issue the same, regardless of your current position. However, I'm pretty ignorant about Gay Rights other than same sex marriage. My intuition is that's not the only law that should be changed. Like, can companies legally fire you for your sexual orientation? I don't even know.

In the context of same sex marriage, Jeff Hodges appears to support direct action like protests, etc. He feels that this will not only force people to pay attention, but will also force them come to a more reasonable view. This is because of both the compelling nature of the Truth and because "extremists make people listen to moderates."

I'm not sure about that. While extremists can make more moderate views look more reasonable, they can also poison people's opinions towards any comprimises. Certainly Violence or Terrorism from extremists taint opinions of even mild comprimise. I would bet there is a bit of truth to this Onion Satire about some Non-violent Direct Actions hurting the cause as well. Humanizing homosexuals, and relating the real problems they face is probably the best course.

I know less about Gay Rights than I do about Feminism, so I'm not even sure there's the same level of organization and information available. Certainly equivalent ways of integrating support for Gay Rights into my life choices are more difficult for me to formulate. Where would you find a list of good or bad companies to work for and buy from, or to avoid? I don't think there's a socially responsible investment screen for this stuff either. Hmmm... more to think about.
posted at 17:51:44    #    comment []    trackback []

Activist Feminist Life Choices

Thanks to the good advice from my sister and Echidne I think I've made some progress on ways to integrate Feminism into my life. I'd still be very interested in hearing reactions, suggestions, or refinements.

My earlier difficulty in discerning how to integrate Feminism into my life was that I was comparing it to Enivronmentalism. In Environmentalism, you're just dealing with things and places. If you pick up litter, the place looks cleaner. You can make a positive contribution with immediate, tangible results even when everyone around you is apathetic or opposed. In Feminism, it's hard to know where (or who) to direct your efforts toward, and hard to gauge how effective you are in persuading people. Without feeling productive in some Feminist activity, a person gets demoralized and turns bitter and apathetic towards Feminism.

However, there is a solution. There are actual quantifiable, empirical effects of sexism and mysogyny. People point to these symptoms and use them to justify continued sexism and mysogyny. For instance, women earn less than men for the same work, and are less often promoted. Sexists point to this and use circular reasoning to say it demonstrates women are somehow less suited, underperforming, or something equally ridiculous (e.g. "My paying you less because you are a woman proves women are worse workers so I should pay you less"???). If you counteract these symptoms (pay women equally and help them succeed), those women break the stereotypes and prove them false. These symptoms of sexism can be affected by choices in our lives (working, buying stuff, investing for retirement, housing ourselves, getting education, raising families, etc.). If women are allowed to succeed, they break the stereotypes and reduce the viability of sexist opinions. Try telling an award winning female mathematician that women are no good at math. Or look at college women's athletics (e.g. "we don't have women's athletic programs because women don't want to be athletes because they're aren't women's athletic programs"). Prominent women who have beaten the odds help, but just everyday ordinary women's every accomplishment is much more far reaching in shaping public opinion, since more sexists are confronted by the mundane reality of these examples, and can't write them off as flukes. Our life choices can further aid the Cause, by facilitating women's successes.

For instance, if you choose not to work for a company that has substantial gender pay equity gap, or a history of not promoting women, etc., it reduces the quantity and quality of that companies labor pool, and increases their labor costs (as they must pay more to attract quality people). Really infamous companies need to pay way more to attract the same calibre of workers. Would you want to work for Enron, Haliburton, etc.? As my sister points out, Working Mother has a 100 Best Companies to work for. Choosing to work for these companies, helping these companies to succeed, will force other companies to be more competitive on Feminist issues. I would be very interested in other similar lists (as well as the worst companies so they can be specifically avoided).

Also as my wise and intelligent sister points out, we can choose to buy products from the same list of good companies, and avoid buying products from the really bad ones. In addition to the 100 best companies to work for (and hence buy from), Co-op America has tools to aid Socially Responsible Consumerism and Boycotts. They also have the Green Pages for looking up alternatives. Their focus (esp. Green Pages) is more environmental, but there is attention to Feminist issues as well.

You can also choose to invest in a socially responsible way with regards to Feminism. There's even a few mutual funds that are specifically Feminist as the overriding concern for positive and negative screening.

Getting a house (or apartment) in a city, state, or country based on rates of domestic abuse, violence against women, etc. might be a tad extreme, but I could see that also forcing other governments to be more competetive on those issues for similar reasons. I'm not sure how those crimes correlate to income demographics, so I might need to research and think about ramifications of that one. It does amuse me that the states most vehemently opposed to reproductive freedom actually have the highest rates of abortion.

For education, certainly educating yourself about Feminism is important. In addition, choosing to attend or sending your kids to schools that have decent graduation rates for women in science and engineering is a great way to encourage other schools to promote programs to address the current societal imbalance.

Socially responsible Living choices are to a certain extent luxuries, and I'm not suggesting that anyone who can't afford to do all of this stuff is not a Feminist. Most people are happy to have any job right now, and can't afford to be real picky. I'm just trying to think of ways to move my life more in tune with my values. If anyone else has any good Feminist suggestions, (or disagreements or whatever) I would be extremely happy to hear them.
posted at 13:46:24    #    comment []    trackback []
March 2004
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