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Michael Hastings’ “Boys Will Be Boys” FAIL

June 23, 2010

In an interview with Michelle Norris of All Things Considered, Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings uses the old “boys will be boys” excuse when commenting on his story about Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

If you aren’t already aware of the story, Hastings wrote an article for Rolling Stone that contains quotes from Gen McChrystal and his staff criticizing – and, more significantly, belittling – the President, the Vice President, and several other members of the administration.  McChrystal has been called to Washington, where he is scheduled to meet with Obama on Wednesday.  According to NPR, the general’s job may be in danger, in part because of things he says in Hastings’ article.

Hastings, however, acts as though he’s surprised that the article caused such an uproar.  During the interview with Norris he quotes several belittling statements that a McChrystal aide made about Biden during a meeting.  Norris asks whether the aide was reprimanded for the comments, and Hastings’ reply is “Have you hung out with the military much?”  He goes on to say  – as many before him have done – that the men of the military are under so much stress that they need humor to diffuse the tension.  He implies that the insults flung at the President and his staff – while on record with a reporter – are part and parcel of that need for humor.  Boys will be boys, and the military will be the military.

Hastings seems surprised that the men are being held accountable for their words.  But isn’t it common knowledge that if you say bad things about your boss, and you get caught, your job is on the line?  Are there places in life where that isn’t true?  If so, please let me know where they are.

There’s a difference – a BIG difference – between using humor to diffuse tension and using “humor” to belittle an authority figure.  In addition, I question the effectiveness of this purportedly therapeutic strategy.  In the incident Hastings references, a top advisor to McChrystal refers to Joe Biden as “Joe Bite Me”.  Is that really so hilarious that it immediately relieves all of his pent-up anger and tension?  Really?

I’ll agree with Hastings that in any wartime scenario there’s going to be tension – between the soldiers themselves, between the military and the administration, between the military and the people.  But handling that tension via a bunch of on-the-record playground talk seems extraordinarily ineffective.

Additionally, the suggestion that members of the military ought to be held to a lesser standard of behavior than the general public is absurd.  The military has power; it has force.  Ideally, members of a group imbued with such power ought to be held to exceptionally high standards.  Because power + douchebaggery = danger.

Everyone in the media, listen up: The “boys will be boys” excuse is tired and worn out.  It is not now – nor has it EVER BEEN – a reasonable explanation for ANY behavior.  Falling back on this trope is just bad journalism.  It’s an excuse not to dig deeper.  It’s a quick fix that doesn’t give us any real information.  It’s insulting, and frankly it’s bad for society.  Let’s stop using it, okay?

Angela Davis Rocks My Socks Off

June 22, 2010

Angela Davis recently spoke to a group in Berlin about Judith Butler’s decision to refuse Berlin Pride’s Civil Courage Award (which we mentioned yesterday).  She also took the opportunity to remind everyone that Butler’s decision is part of a lineage of increasingly intersectional feminist analyses of oppression, which owe much basically everything to the hard work of women of color.  A video of her remarks (via TransGriot) follows, with a transcript below.


Well, I certainly hope that Judith Butler’s refusal to receive the Civil Courage Award will act as a catalyst for more discussion about the impact of racism, even within groups that are considered to be progressive. [applause] …Somehow, [the idea that] people from the Global South, people of color are more homophobic than white people—is a racist assumption.  [applause] When we consider the extent to which the ideological structures of homophobia, of transphobia, of heteropatriarchy are embedded in our institutions, the assumption that one group of people is going to be more homophobic than another group of people misses the mark.  It misses the mark because we not only have to address issues of attitudes; we have to address the institutions that perpetuate those attitudes and that inflict real violence on human beings.

…And I was going to say, in answer to the last question about the urgency of the late 60s, if had people not acted with that urgency, we would not perhaps have the expanded notion of social justice that we have,  wouldn’t perhaps have the vocabulary—and it’s always been a struggle over language, over vocabulary, and I’ve come to believe that ..that when we win victories in movement struggles, what we do is we change the whole terrain of struggle.  So we don’t simply add on: we don’t add on women to black people; we don’t add on LGBT people to women and to black people; we don’t add on trans people and so forth.  Each time we win a significant victory, it requires us to revisit the whole terrain of struggle.  And so therefore, we have to ask questions about the impact of racism in gay and lesbian movements, we have to ask questions about the impact of racism in the women’s movement, we have to ask questions about the impact of sexism or misogyny in black communities, and we have to ask questions about the influence of homophobia in black communities or communities of color.  This notion of intersecting or cross-hatched or overlaying categories of oppression is one that has come to us thanks to the work of women of color feminists. [applause]

UPDATE: For another articulation of the extent to which Butler’s refusal of the award depended upon the hard work of activists of color, check out this excellent piece at Bully Bloggers.

Odds and Ends to Start the Week

June 21, 2010

INCITE! reports that FIERCE, “a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City” is looking for a new Executive Director.  Check out the job posting here.

In Sexist Beatdown this week, Sady and Amanda deliver the best Ayn Rand satire ever.

La Macha at VivrLatin@ calls bullshit on the idea that it’s wrong to criticize U.S. immigration policy because things are sooo much worse in Mexico.

Philosopher/feminist/famous person Judith Butler publicly refuses to accept an hono(u)r from Berlin Pride in protest of the group’s racism/anti-Muslim sentiment.

Feministing has a helpful breakdown of the difference between the terms lesbian, bi, and queer (thanks Baruch and Roll!).

And finally, I’m now–fashionably late, of course–on twitter.  You can follow me @bullstonecraft, where I will update you on the blog, my gyno appointments, and other tweet-appropriate randomness (i.e., not an execution).

Happy Juneteenth!

June 19, 2010

Image via Jack and Jill Politics

How will you celebrate?

Since Juneteenth is the perfect day to think on what it means to carry on in the work of fighting injustice, I wanted to share this poem with you by Malkia Cyril:

What Has Yet to Be Sung

in tribute to Audre Lorde, June 18, 1992

Backing to breaking down
I always come to why, to
the unfair, painful
part of life
which runs through everything
like children’s crayons
or mud streaked
into the secret rooms of my house.
It gets easier and easier to sit
and watch the sun set
forgetting how it rose
how the glow lifts
black children’s faces toward
tomorrow and another chance
waiting with everything that I am
to know the world
and fill it up with one mighty word
one poem to rage catastrophic
on my enemies
one powerful poem to fly past silence
and bleed will into children trapped
by public schools and private traumas.
Forgetting in between spaces
that deny opposition I invite chaos;
the only directio for me is out.
Audre, I am learning not to sacrifice
belief, not to murder hope.
Still sometimes I wake in the middle
of the night screaming dark alleys
and an ex-lover’s body desecrated
and buried in time for papers
to catch the story.
That is not
the whole of life,
whole–I can’t explain is where
she took me, is where you bring me
to become the poetry of our mothers,
the survival of our fathers
to love beginnings
taking trips back to loving hands
into the sit back, yes on track
stand up way Audre had of obliterating
silence so that even while midtown maniacs
with billy clubs are smearing
our future with blood
we know we are still the plenty of our love
the height of promise.
I have known a woman who was a movement
in my life,
like welcome back to love;
we become the women
whose tongues have been stabbed
and sing anyway,
the women who learn from
teargas and tears how to make
a bomb cry, the soul rise
to meet the earth
crushed under buses
splintered onto sidewalks
we learn death is not the end of life
that language and change
are the beginning
I want to be a beginning
for me
for you.

Rethinking Access, Rethinking (My) Feminism

June 17, 2010

Image via NYT

There’s a post that’s been percolating with me for some time, and I’ve put it off over and over again–partially because it is personal to me, but mostly because I have feared not doing a good job.  The latter is still a distinct possibility, but it seems to me that I have a responsibility to try, even if that involves making mistakes.

The image at the top of this post is of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new entrance requirements.  You may or may not recall that, back in May, the Court announced that, for security reasons, it would no longer allow entrance through its main door at the top of the Courthouse steps.  Instead, as the illustration indicates, visitors may enter through the side doors at ground level.  The New York Times article reporting this change minces no words about the decision, opening with the declaration that this alteration is “ripe with symbolism about access to justice in the age of terror.”  The report continues,

And it is not just any front door. For decades, people with cases before the court, their lawyers and those who just came to see the arguments have climbed the grand steps arrayed in front of the courthouse’s marble columns, passed under the inscribed words “Equal Justice Under Law” and walked through a passage flanked by two six-ton bronze doors that show historic scenes in the development of the law.


Justice Stephen G. Breyer issued an unusual statement, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, expressing regret about the court’s decision.

“Writers and artists regularly use the steps to represent the ideal that anyone in this country may obtain meaningful justice through application to this court,” Justice Breyer wrote.


Visitors, once screened, will still be allowed to leave through the front door. But the symbolic statement of forbidding entry, Justice Breyer said, was a momentous one. “This court’s main entrance and front steps,” he wrote, “are not only a means to, but also a metaphor for, access to the court itself.” [emphasis mine]

Read more…

Things We Don’t Speak Of

June 17, 2010

I was taught (round-aboutly so,) that there are certain things that respectable people don’t talk about. Or think about. Or do. And the less talking about the confusing and secret things the more these things must not exist. And it’s best to keep it this way.

How can something so personal express itself in any way when you’re told that it’s not a part of you at all?

Dammit, Louisiana…

June 16, 2010

Yet another state passes a law requiring women to get ultrasounds before abortions.  This time it’s my home state.

I have no words.  This place is falling down around my ears.   I just can’t abide this, y’all.