Sorry, I can’t control myself. You’ll just have to go.

Iowa’s Supreme Court earned a lot of respect when it ruled that same-sex marriage was legal and denying it was discriminatory.  However, they have decided to balance themselves out with a completely baffling ruling:  Your boss can fire you if he can’t stop thinking about how much he wants to bang you.  No, seriously.  From the ruling:

Can a male employer terminate a female employee because the employer’s wife, due to no fault of the employee, is concerned about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee? This is the question we are required to answer today. For the reasons stated herein, we ultimately conclude the conduct does not amount to unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

I just… what?

The details in the ruling are simply appalling:

Dr. [James H.] Knight complained to [Melissa] Nelson that her clothing was too tight and revealing and “distracting.”

Dr. Knight later testified that he made these statements to Nelson because “I don’t think it’s good for me to see her wearing things that accentuate her body.” Nelson denies that her clothing was tight or in any way inappropriate.

Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing. On another occasion, Dr. Knight texted Nelson saying the shirt she had worn that day was too tight. After Nelson responded that she did not think he was being fair, Dr. Knight replied that it was a good thing Nelson did not wear tight pants too because then he would get it coming and going.

In the meeting, Dr. Knight told [Nelson’s husband] Steve Nelson that Melissa Nelson had not done anything wrong or inappropriate and that she was the best dental assistant he ever had. However, Dr. Knight said he was worried he was getting too personally attached to her. Dr. Knight told Steve Nelson that nothing was going on but that he feared he would try to have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her.

The court held from previous precedents that since favoritism in the workplace based on sexual relationships did not rise to sexual discrimination, then therefore, the opposite was also true. Melissa Nelson had not been discriminated against because of her gender, because Dr. Knight only ever hires women.

She was discriminated against because of her looks, which is apparently legal.  More to the point, she was ogled by a lech who was afraid he was going to try to coerce her into an extramarital affair or be otherwise sexually inappropriate, which is apparently legal in Iowa.

Mind boggling.

Sure, let’s try to legislate the hate away.

Something Bad Has Happened, and therefore, the Westboro Baptist Church has announced that they will picket the funerals of those who died.  This is what they do these days, their entire purpose.  Exploit tragedy in the crassest way possible.  They travel the country to use any tragedy to blast their message that their god most certainly hates homosexuals, because he let Tragedies Like This happen.  Great guy, that god of theirs.  The best part about WBC’s methods is that they get people all worked up.  Their latest announcement that they will picket the funerals of the Newtown shooting victims has triggered a call on the White House’s petition site to have WBC legally recognized as a hate group.  The petition has gathered over 90,000 signatures at this point.

This is, of course, a Bad Idea.  It’s wrong, and it’s reactionary.  WBC spews hatred on a daily basis, but they have committed no actual hate crimes.  Do you who else spews hate on a daily basis?  The American Family Association.  The Catholic League.  The National Organization for Marriage.  All three of those groups have done far and away more to actually deny people civil rights than Westboro Baptist has ever done, yet none of those groups has managed to get 90,000 people to demand that the White House declare them a hate group.  Let’s be clear here: WBC has never called for people to rise to violence.  They have never done the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  Like it or not, their message is entirely and utterly protected by the First Amendment, and they are smart enough to never stray from that.  90,000 people didn’t just ask Barack Obama to label them a hate group, they asked him to violate a group’s freedom of speech.

As Fred Clark wrote almost four years ago:

Fred Phelps is a free man, so if you think your freedom is going to be restricted, you must be planning to outdo Fred Phelps.

So there’s the two-word answer for every Tony Perkins or James Dobson or Damon Owens who makes up some dubious claim about being persecuted or punished or threatened or jailed or whatever for their anti-gay beliefs.

Fred Phelps is the canary in the coal mine of our democracy.  He and his followers say terrible things out loud in public places that common decency balks at, but they do it legally.  The moment we start curbing that, the moment we try to legislate away this type of expression, that is the moment we prove the AFA and NOM right.  That is the moment that we say “we disagree with your message, therefore, it is illegal for you to say it.”  That is the moment we actually try to take away the rights of religious people to be complete hate-filled Neanderthals, and once we’ve crossed that Rubicon, we are really not far from legislating away whatever speech the majority disagrees with.  We’re not far from criminalizing condemnation of, say, the Catholic church for any reason.  Because, hey! That might be hate speech, and that would be illegal!

But in the mean time, notes Clark:

So when the folks at NOM insist that their opposition to same-sex marriage is a matter of “religious liberty,” the liberty they’re talking about has to be the liberty to exceed the Fred Phelps standard — the liberty not just to restrict membership on religious grounds, or just to preach against homosexuality as a sin, or to condemn and denounce homosexuals as people hated by God, but the liberty, apparently, to go beyond all that, beyond anything even Fred Phelps has imagined.

Attempting to label Westboro Baptist as a hate group, when their only “crime” so far is saying things that you don’t agree with, means that you are willing to legislate any speech with which you disagree.  Think about that for a while.  Think long and hard before you demand that we violate someone’s civil rights because you don’t like what they have to say.  Because that’s what legally labeling WBC as a hate group boils down to.  Violating their First Amendment right to be complete idiots.

Edit:  Something I completely missed in the writing of this – there is no legal classification for a ‘hate group.’  There’s the Southern Poverty Law Center’s classification, but WBC has been on their list for some time now.  This petition is asking the government to create a brand new class simply to persecute a bunch of people who say things we don’t like.

Knowing the unknowable

A friend of a friend on Facebook said “It’s an unexplainable and senseless act of violence” in regards to yet another massacre.  I really detest that sentiment.  My response was this:

No, it is explainable. We just don’t have the explanation in front of us. Saying that it’s unexplainable means we’re washing our hands of ever finding that explanation and any hope of preventing a repeat. This is not just a side effect of living in our society. This can be stopped. This doesn’t need to happen again.

We don’t know what happened in the mind of the shooter.  150 years ago we didn’t know what an electron was.  Our knowledge of concussions and repeated brain injury has increased by leaps and bounds in just the past four years.  Everything has an explanation.  We need to find it.

We need to understand and be able to avoid these tragedies from occurring.

One of the first things we can do is to stop dehumanizing the people who commit these acts.  At the point where you are ready to walk into a school or a mall or a theater or a place of worship or restaurant (to name just a few of the locations that spree-killings took place in America in 2012), you have ceased to be a rational person.  Something has broken very deep inside you.  Unfortunately, we rarely get the chance to analyze these people because most of them take their own lives in the process.   There’s a big leap between becoming so filled with despair that you end your own life, and deciding to take as many people with you as possible.  These must be two different things.  One way or another, though, viewing these people as any less than human is rather medieval thinking.  Dehumanizing them allows us to place the blame for their actions solely on their shoulders, completely absolving and ignoring whatever treatable and preventable cause pushed them to that point.  When we do that, we simply ensure that tragedies like this will continue to happen.

Adam Lanza was a person. Something inside him went terribly, terribly wrong.  Let’s not forget that he was a person.  A beautiful, unique individual with people who loved him, who are now wrapped up in the horrifying hell of being connected to what he did.  We need sympathy and compassion for everyone.

“I said ya shouldn’t have worn that dress…”

Anne Hathaway recently had the misfortune of being a woman in public, in case you hadn’t heard from every news outlet in America.  As she exited a limo at an event for her new movie, someone with a camera found himself with a wonderful angle straight up her skirt. Surprise!  That dirty, shameful woman hadn’t properly covered her body in the manner demanded by society!  The cameraman then sold the pictures, and they’ve been tossed all over the internet.

Two things to note:

  1. Someone took an unauthorized picture of a woman who was in no way intending to expose herself.
  2. That person then sold the photo for money.

Hathaway then went on the Today Show, where Matt Lauer proved that his internet search history must be pretty sad.  Immediately attempting to shame Hathaway, he begins by asking her “what’s the lesson learned,” putting the blame for this squarely on her shoulders.  Hathaway, to her credit, has none of it (transcript via Shakesville):

[deep breath; looking down] Well, it was obviously an unfortunate incident. Um, I think— It kinda made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and, rather than delete it, and do the decent thing, sells it. And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to Les Mis, because that’s what my character is—she is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child, because she has nothing and there’s no social safety net. And I— Yeah, so, um, so let’s get back to Les Mis. [laughs uncomfortably; looks down]

That’s takedown if I ever heard one.  She skewers the entire culture, not just the creep who is sitting across from her.  Of course, Lauer isn’t done with that particular tube of Jergens, and he laughs the whole thing off by noting that’s one of the best turns of a question he’s ever heard, instead of, you know, acknowledging that she had a damn good point and apologizing for feeding into it and (we’re left to assume) ogling pictures of her vagina and calling it “research” for the interview.

Because he totally started that bit with “Seen a lot of you lately.” I’m reminded of Multiple Miggs’ one-sided conversation with Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.

Lauer attempted to intimidate Hathaway by foisting blame for her own violation back onto her, and though she defended herself quite admirably, she was obviously uncomfortable. Good job, creep.

Next up, comedian and commentator Dean Obeidallah posted an article on CNN entitled “Do you believe in celebrity wardrobe ‘malfunction’?,” wherein he lays the blame for such things on the celebrities themselves. Obeidallah explains that they do this in order to remain relevant and in the news when their careers begin to flag or when they need “exposure.”  What better way to do that than to slip some nip or flash ’em the old beav, huh Dean?  Of course, he absolves Hathaway in this particular case, because “she has no history of these types of antics” and “she is well-respected in Hollywood.”  Sorry, Emma Watson, you’re a has-been and we know you only do this to prolong your fifteen minutes of fame.

I called out Obeidallah on Twitter, and here’s the exchange:

Me: Yeah, what are these women doing even going out in public?! Have they no shame? She basically raped that poor photographer.

Dean Obeidallah: Dont think u get the article but thanks for reading it

Me: @Deanofcomedy I got it just fine. Someone took a picture of her crotch without her permission and sold it for money. Obviously her fault.

DO: Nah, u didnt get it- But again thanks for reading it

Me: (quoting from his article) “since Hathaway was exiting her car sans underwear, she would do so more carefully than a cowboy climbing off a horse.”
Me: “she was being dropped off on the red carpet where the paparazzi were lined up like piranhas awaiting a piece of meat. ”
Me: Or, the shorter version: “She was asking for it, dressed like that and walking down that dark alley.”

He comes back with the “sorry you’re offended” line:

DO: Ur right – Ill ask CNN to take down the article bc some people simply wont get the point

Me: Oh, I get your overarching point. You just use the classic “blame the victim” mentality to get there. Very original.

DO: U get it after all!

I’m not even sure where to go from there, because 140 characters was just not quite sufficient, and I was getting really annoyed by someone using “U” instead of “you” when he had over 100 characters left to work with.

What this whole incident boils down to is the continuing narrative that celebrities are public property, women who are taken advantage of like this had it coming, and men simply can’t be held accountable – the onus is on them to behave themselves. Because for some reason, what undergarments Anne Hathaway does or does not wear is somehow of great importance, and she should feel ashamed that she didn’t rigidly conform to the societal standard.

But what exactly is that standard?  What if she’d been wearing something under that dress?
“Hathaway flashes crotch, shows off sexy panties!”
“Hathaway flashes crotch, shows off unsexy panties!”

What if no one had managed to get that shot?
“Hathaway’s visible panty line!”

What if she’d just tried to avert the crisis altogether?
“Hathaway shocks by wearing pants to premier!”

It’s a no-win scenario.  The media is going to be obsessed with the fact that a beautiful woman has a vagina.  It’s incumbent upon scumbags to not photograph it without her express permission, and creeps like Lauer to not shame her because some scumbag photographed it.  She’s not ours.  Her body is not ours.  Her body is her own.  And if she wants to go commando, more power to her. I don’t care what she wears as long as she’s comfortable in her own skin, and no one has the right to shame her for that.