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Fiji Water & Vatukoula
New Culture Wars?
Factory Like a City
Bruce E. Levine
Until Jesus Comes
Zaps - 11-09
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New Culture Wars Over Gay Teens?
We are beginning to see a small but gradual shift in the ongoing culture wars around queers, away from the issue of same-sex marriage back to the 1970s preoccupation with children. The issue of same-sex marriage has been front and center for anti-gay right wing organizing for the past decade. Ever since Baehr v. Miike, the 1993 decision by Hawaii's Supreme Court that allowed same-sex couples to get married (it was later overturned by a constitutional amendment), the specter of queers tying the knot has been conservatives' prime example of what can really go wrong with America.
Sixteen years later, while only a handful of states allow same-sex marriage or civil unions and the government has passed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that forbids any federal marriage-related benefits to same-sex couples, it is clear that conservatives have lost this battle. Sure, they still bluster away about same-sex marriage hurting the heterosexual family and then bring out completely misused statistics to prove that fatherless families live in poverty, but there is little doubt that in two decades same-sex marriage will be completely legal in many states and DOMA will be gone.
This is, in part, due to most Americans getting used to the idea of same-sex marriage (polls show that women and men under the age of 25 have no problem with it) but also to the fact that most Americans don't care. Marriage in America—with an over 50 percent divorce rate and a raft of reality TV shows that demonstrate that dating, marriage, and being a housewife is a nightmare—is no longer an issue for culture wars. The general consensus is that same-sex marriage does not place American family values at risk and the institution of heterosexual marriage does not have to be protected.
On the other hand, many Americans may still feel that children need to be protected from "the homosexual lifestyle." This past October two events brought the issues of homosexuality and kids to the forefront. The first was the attack by conservative groups, spearheaded by the Family Research Council, on the appointment of Kevin Jennings to head up the Department of Education's endeavor to create "safe schools" at the state and local level. Jennings is the founder of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education network (GLSEN) and has been an outspoken advocate for anti-bullying laws, the creation of Gay/Straight Alliances in public and private schools, as well as a critic of the religious right, which has often opposed his efforts on both of these issues.
Right-wing attacks on liberal or progressive federal appointments are not new—in the recent case of "green czar" Van Johnson, they actually got his appointment rescinded—but the war on Jennings has moved into hyper overdrive. Jennings has been vilified in conservative blogs, religious media outlets, and there is even a Facebook page called "Expel Kevin Jennings" for "Concerned citizens who don't want Kevin Jennings 'queering' our schools." The story has played endlessly by Fox. Even CNN has covered it, mostly to make corrections to some of the more extreme right-wing misstatements of facts. The most notable of these is the story of Jenning's telling a 15-year-old that it was okay to have sex in men's rooms. This claim was a distortion of a speech Jennings gave in which he told the story of counseling a 16-year-old, legally of age to engage in adult sexual behavior, to use a condom if he had sex with men he had just met on a bus.
The ferocity with which the right attacked Jennings tells us two things. They feel that they have some traction with this issue and that the scare tactics about queering schools has the potential to move into the mainstream. Certainly coverage on Fox News is aimed at doing this, though so far it has not been effective. Even the more reasonable arguments, such as Tom Perkins's Family Research Center blog, may not convince the more middle of the road. Because Jennings supports the idea of "safety" in schools, Perkins notes, correctly, Jennings is really "reaffirming" gay identity.
Even some right-wingers might be tempted to support the "safe schools" agenda as long as it is limited to ending bullying and does not extend to actively affirming or promoting homosexuality. However, in a 1995 speech, Jennings admitted that the rhetoric about "safety" was a political device, saying that it "threw our opponents on the defensive and stole their best line of attack. This framing short-circuited their arguments and left them backpedaling." In a 1997 speech he embraced the idea of actively "promoting" homosexuality, looking forward to a day when "people would hear that someone was promoting homosexuality, would say, 'Yeah, who cares?'" And an unsigned article on the GLSEN website in 2000 declared, "The pursuit of safety and affirmation are one and the same goal."
The problem for the right is that increasingly most Americans care less and less about demonizing homosexuality. There are plenty of ways U.S. culture can be, and is, homophobic, but telling school children that being gay is not necessarily a bad thing is very low on the list of American's fears. It has been three decades since Anita Bryant managed to jump-start a national movement with her "Save the Children" campaign. To a large degree the anti-Jennings campaigns have a note of desperation to them.
This is not surprising given the larger cultural context. The September 27 issue of the New York Times Magazine featured a cover article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis entitled "Coming Out in Middle School" in which teens as young as 13 who knew they were gay at 11 speak out about being gay and how they manage to negotiate school, family, crushes, and (although most of them have not "gone all the way") sex. The piece is basic reporting and feels honest, non-exploitative, and sensible in a friendly way. These are kids whose parents are mostly supportive (no surprise since they had to have their parent's permission to appear in the article) and are well integrated and charming. When they have problems at school, the article takes pains to point out that the problem is with the schools, not with gay teens.
What is most amazing about "Coming Out In Middle School," however, is that the New York Times, which has never been particularly progressive about LGBT issues, felt that the time was ripe for a public conversation about gay kids and middle school. Some of this has to do with the fact that as a society we discuss sex and sexuality more and more and there are fewer reasons not to come out if the context is safe and (moderately) welcoming. Some of it has to do with the mainstream media reporting more honestly on the lives of younger lesbian, gay, and bisexual people because the broader culture will support such articles. But, to a large degree, articles such as this are a (conscious or unconscious) response to the increased (and increasingly shrill and crazy) right-wing rhetoric that uses homosexuality and children as a scare tactic.
We saw the exact same pattern in reporting about same-sex marriage. As right-wing attacks increased, newspapers not only supported same-sex marriage on their editorial pages, but placed photos and notices of same-sex couples on their "Weddings and Commitments" pages, as well as feature articles on LGBT families.
Does this mean that mainstream media is going to begin taking progressive stands on all LGBT issues? Probably not. As with all issues, they sniff out the general odor of cultural permission before they take a chance on anything. But it may mean that as the right—including Fox and the world of conservative blogs—becomes increasingly rabid about gay and lesbian issues, the more moderate media may begin acting more responsibly. And that alone would be news.
Michael Bronski is the author of numerous books, including, most recently Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps. His articles have been published in the Village Voice, the Boston Globe, GLQ,and the Los Angeles Times. He has been a visiting professor in Women's and Gender Studies and Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College since 1999.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.