Into the Enemy’s Den

31 05 2010

Cherished readers, I was doing my usual daily blogroll this  morning, perusing the articles and links the denizens of the Internet saw fit to render up today, when I found myself upon this site. Yes, the legendary Focus on the Family, home of gay anti-gay activists and weirdly incestuous advice columns. Yet as much as I have heard about the horrors of FotF, I have yet to see them for myself. Join me, dear readers, as we plunge deep into this festering pile of bullshit. It’ll be fun.

On the opening page, we already meet with “What?” Not offensive “What?”, just confusing “What?”. One of the blurbs concerning a story about Prince of Persia reads : “This swashbuckling adventure includes a dash of romance and comedy, but it’s all set in a world of dark magic.” What? Why the “but”? The ‘dark magic’ is a selling point! At least to this fantasy geek, reared on fairy tales, Tamora Pierce, and Garth Nix. It probably has something to do with the whole Christian thing (though what is the Old Testament God except magical? The plagues of Egypt, Daniel in the lion’s den… but I digress.) Moving on.

So, being that it’s Focus on the Family, I look under the ‘parenting’ tab, and right away, something seems very, very off:

Blue Internet menu; under 'Parenting Topics' the options Effective Biblical Discipline, Protecting Your Family, Spiritual Growth for Kids, Sexuality (circled in red with a question mark), Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers, School-Age Children, Teens, Your Child's Emotions, Adoptive Families, Parenting Challenges, Parenting Roles, Single Parenting, Building Relationships, Parenting Community, and Parenting Resources

What the…? Why…? Do I want to know? Most of these things at least have SOME relationship to parenting, even if they sound vaguely threatening (“Effective Biblical Discipline,” I’m looking at you). Adoptive Families, Teens, Protecting Your Family- all standard operating procedure. But Sexuality? What the fuck? What does that have to do with parenting? Wouldn’t that be under “marriage,” being that, oh, you know, (most) married people have sex? I humbly submit that if your parenting requires sexuality, UR DOIN IT RONG.

Though perhaps I misinterpret. This is probably about the child’s sexuality- still a little bit freaky, but okay. Children, sometimes very young children, are sexual beings, and I’m sure parents often need help dealing with those issues. Are there really so many “my-three-year-old-daughter-is-masturbating” and “the-neighborhood-kids-are-playing-doctor” and “how-do-we-tell-little-timmy-about-the-stork” articles that you need a whole separate category?

Oh, no. Ooooooh no. I think I get it. I don’t want to get it. I don’t want to click through and have all my worst fears confirmed. I really just want to close the window, put down the laptop, and go admire the clematis. The weather is so beautiful outside, maybe I should dig my rollerblades out of the shed and…

Too late.

There are five little brown boxes about halfway down the page. The last one cracks me up: “When Children View Pornography.” It… it takes it so seriously! *gasp* Phew. Okay, okay, this is a legit problem and I am NOT going to refight the Porn Wars of the 80s here, so moving on and ignoring their undoubtedly pearl-clutching and sanctimonious advice. Okay, okay, I did click through a little bit- like you could resist a link titled “Advice for Parents of Teen Porn Addicts,” which sounds like the teens are in the porn rather than watching it. I was rewarded with this gem of a quote: “I was surprised that the first four callers identified themselves as sex addicts- three of which were female.” Oh my GOD, teenagers have sexual desire! Teenage GIRLS have sexual desire! Fetch the fainting couch, Martha!

Anyway, the next two boxes concern The Talk- pretty standard fare, even if their advice is probably painfully holier-than-thou- and one called “Prevent the Sexualization of Your Daughter.” Leaving aside the fact the sentence construction kind of turns her into an object, this title just makes me sad. I know most people who click through to this have their hearts in the right place and really do want to protect their daughters, but it’s fruitless. I’m sorry. I genuinely am. I’m so sorry. I know you would do anything to take care of your daughter, but she is already sexualized. Will always be. She was destined for sexualization the minute she came out of your womb with two X chromosomes into our rape culture. It is inescapable: she is female, and therefore sexualized. There is nothing you can do to prevent your daughter’s sexualization short of killing her or turning her into a boy. Though considering the dead-hot-girl complex our culture seems to have, and all the shit trans men have to deal with, even that might not save her. (PS: The answer to abolishing women as the sex class isn’t fundamentalist Christianity. It’s feminism. Case you were interested.)

The remaining two boxes are titled “Healthy Childhood Sexual Development” (the and “Teaching Children Healthy Sexuality.” The first one made me lol again, only because there is a “Prevention” tab underneath it. Prevent healthy childhood sexual development! But the second one creeps me the fuck out. Since when do parents teach their kids sexuality? Sexuality is an innate characteristic that each of us must figure out for ourselves. My parents damn sure didn’t teach me how to be queer- or lesbian, or straight, for that matter. They taught me how to cook, do laundry, tell funny jokes, and mow the lawn.

“For example, family is where young males can be mentored into responsible men who know how to safeguard sexuality and young females can be fashioned to cherish fidelity.” Oh, God, I’m regretting this already. Gender binary. Get out your Gay Bingo cards! Also: they bash dating. Really, dude, it’s okay if you’ve had bad experiences, I totally understand, but don’t feel obligated to take it out on everybody else. They also say we need to “intentionally equip our children with intimate homes” which sounds half dirty (“you have such an… intimate home”) and half nerdy (“I intentionally equip Zyclon with a Level 5 Crystal Trident!”)

…And now the website has cut me off. It insists it is “temporarily unavailable.” I suspect they have discovered my secret liberalness and are deliberately hiding!  COWARDS! Fix the 404 and STAND AND BE MOCKED!




Abusive Relationship Sing-Along!

24 05 2010

I was browsing through my iTunes library today, and I realized I have quite a few (0kay, four) songs about domestic abuse, both physical and emotional. Now, this is a tricky topic to incorporate into art, especially for guys: much like rape, it’s highly gendered and really, really easy to screw up, resulting in some stunningly cringeworthy pieces. But it is also possible to make REALLY KICKASS and inspiring works that just about make you cry because they are living, singing proof that there are some people out there who Get It.

Starting out with the quintessential don’t-hit-your-girlfriend anthem Face Down by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus:

Okay. Some good, some… weird. The first verse is eerie: “Cover up with makeup in the mirror/Tell yourself it’s never gonna happen again/You cry alone and then he swears he loves you.” There are some really powerful lines here, although we get a little victim-blamey with “I’ll never understand why you hang around. Then the speaker changes his focus on the chorus and addresses the boyfriend, where we get some interesting challenges to masculinity. It still squicks me out a little, though- maybe it’s the presumption that Narrator Guy gets to yell at Boyfriend Guy on behalf of Girlfriend? The condescension of “heed my lecture”? (“I am a MAN, and I will tell you what to do with your girlfriend!) Actually, my major issue with this song is that the girlfriend kind of disappears after the first verse except as an object to be beaten or not beaten. Not beaten is good, but object is…not.

I will admit, though, that seeing the lyrics reassures me a lot. I used to think the line “She said ‘I finally had enough'” was “She said it and I felt like hurting you.” That, I really disliked, though I’m not 100% sure why. I think the eye-for-an-eye attitude maybe? It sort of reminds me of this post by Amanda Hess of The Sexist about how chivalry still reinforces the patriarchy.

Overall, it’s not awful, but something about it still doesn’t sit quite right with me. Squick Factor: 5/10

Next up, how about some emotional abuse and neglect? I present to you Flavor of the Week by American Hi-Fi:

All right, maybe not an abusive relationship per se, but unhealthy? You damn betcha. Also, it does bear some similarities to the “let me intervene and fix your broken relationship!” attitude in the other songs. (“I wish that I could make her see/She’s just the flavor of the week”) Honestly, though, I just wanted to include this for the last line. GOD I HATE THAT LAST LINE. “She makes me weak.” BECAUSE THE ONLY REASON WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT WOMEN IN ABUSIVE/NEGLECTFUL/UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS IS BECAUSE THEY’RE ZOMGHAWT! AND WE WANT TO BANG THEM. Sorry about the capitals, but that concept is just full of failicious faility fail. The rest of the song isn’t bad, though, encouraging communication in relationships and spending time with each other. Still hate the last line, though. Squick Factor: 99% 0/10, 1% 10/10. Next!

Oh, Bowling for Soup. You can rarely, if ever, make it through a three-minute song without some kind of fail, be it gender, race, trans, size, or whatever else. This song, 99 Biker Friends, is no exception. Despite its good intentions, it still fails, and fails pretty hard. Stunning similarities between this and Face Down: the masculinity questioning, the makeup lines, etc. etc. etc, though we do manage to keep a consistent point of view and avoid the damsel-in-distress scenario. But there is quite a bit of (implied) violence, and some more violence, and some stereotyped violence (prison guards? what the HELL?) Because if you beat HER down, we’ll beat YOU down! Body-shaming penis size joke in the third line, that throwaway line about lesbians, and so on and so forth. Not much else to say about it, except Squick Factor: 7/10. Gotta give them points for effort; gotta revoke most of ’em for misspent effort.

Three songs that all fail in one way or another. Sigh. Isn’t there a way to sing about domestic violence without the Squick Meter going off? Wait, what’s that noise? Could it be…. Yes! It is! It is the DIXIE CHICKS!

Okay, full disclosure: I hate country. A lot. My first exposure to this was the cover version by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (which I still prefer, solely on musical grounds.) Buuuuuut the Dixie Chicks are pretty awesome, so it makes perfect sense that they would have written this. God, it’s fantastic- the acknowledgment of law enforcement’s inability (disinclination?) to successfully help victims of domestic violence, the sisterhood, the recognition that for women in small towns, sometimes marriage to a jerk is all there is, calling Wanda “abused” rather than using euphemisms- wow. Okay, I’m not in theory a fan of the vengeful school of thought, but I can safely call this an exception. What can I say? Schadenfreude plus happy ending equals happy, happy Thessa. Squick Factor? What Squick Factor?

And I don’t think it’s any accident that the only not-painful song among these has women as the primary focus and was written by women. I KNOW, I am perfectly aware, that domestic violence is also an issue for men, but it has been borne out by study after study that most victims are women. (If you have an issue with those statistics: please, argue with the Justice Department. I’m sure they care about your anecdata.)  Therefore, strangely enough, women have the insider’s perspective on abusive relationships and thus can write songs that don’t fail. A shame there aren’t more of them.

P.S: If, like me, you are more of an alt/rock fan, I did find the other version of Goodbye Earl that uses the same footage as the Dixie Chicks one.