Sex, Marriage, and Sexuality: September 2008 Archives

Tests for Sexism

| | Comments (1)

With all the claims (some probably true and some probably not) of sexism in people's responses to Sarah Palin, I've been thinking about a common sort-of-intuitive quick test for sexism that I've been seeing a lot lately.

One kind of evidence for a claim that sexism is taking place involves asking whether the same question or comment would be said if it were a man. The idea is that it's sexism if no one would say the same thing of a man in the same position, which means the treatment is purely based on her being a woman. There's one obvious problem with this kind of test. I would be very unlikely to say that my friend John is in the women's room when he goes into a public restroom, but I might easily say it of my wife. That's clearly not sexism, though. So the proper test needs to distinguish between things that would be appropriate to say of a woman that you wouldn't say of a man. The issue then becomes which ways are appropriate to treat women differently from how you treat men. That, of course, is a matter of disagreement between various people, and thus this test is hardly independent of moral views. So measuring sexism this way depends on what your larger moral picture is.

For example, there are those who thinks mothers and fathers generally bring different things to parenting, and thus (other things being equal) they would prefer that if one parent stays home with the kids that it be the mom. Some takes this to the more extreme view that the mom just ought to stay home without the "other things being equal" qualifier. Then there are those who think there's no moral reason to prefer either parent (and I've never met anyone claiming that we should prefer it be men, but that view is logically possible and might well be held by some feminists who seek to equalize men and women in every way).

These views would say very different things about a claim that a woman ought to do what she can to be the stay-home parent. Some will find it sexist, based on their background moral picture. Others will not. I think this is why some people have a hard time recognizing sexism that others see. It's very difficult to find a morally inappropriate expectation when your own moral view actually requires that expectation or at least sees it as worth trying for if other things are equal. (I should say, though, that it's hard to see a typical liberal using this response appropriately against typical conservatives, because typical liberals have a much larger set of things that they consider sexist than the typical conservative does, not the smaller set that this response assumes.)

The Associate Press published a piece today that it's hard for me to see as anything but a hit piece. It misrepresents Focus on the Family and ties them and Sarah Palin to views more extreme than they actually hold. This has become standard fare in the media over the last couple weeks, but I'm not going to accept it as perfectly ok just because they keep doing it.

Apparently Sarah Palin's church is promoting a conference called Love Won Out, sponsored by Focus on the Family. This is actually the first time I've heard of this, so everything I'm about to say is readily available on the web. The AP piece, written by Rachel D'Oro, describes the conference in their headline as promoting the conversion of gays. The first sentence reads, "Gov. Sarah Palin's church is promoting a conference that promises to convert gays into heterosexuals through the power of prayer."

Now I looked at Love Won Out's website, and here is what they say about converting gays into heterosexuals:

Are you here to "cure" gays? Absolutely not. The only time you'll ever hear the word "cure" used in relation to our event is by those who oppose Love Won Out. They also like to claim we want to "fix" or "convert" gays and lesbians and that we believe people can "pray away the gay." Such glib characterizations ignore the complex series of factors that can lead to same-sex attractions; they also mischaracterize our mission. We exist to help men and women dissatisfied with living homosexually understand that same-sex attractions can be overcome. It is not easy, but it is possible, as evidenced by the thousands of men and women who have walked this difficult road successfully.

But your goal is still to make gays straight, right?
That is a gross and narrow oversimplification. We aren't here to "make" anybody do or become anything; we are here to offer a biblical and experiential perspective on the issue of homosexuality that is, sadly, underreported in the mainstream media. Our goals include aiding parents who want to learn how to better love their sons or daughters without compromising their faith; helping people who want to better understand the many factors that can lead to someone adopting a homosexual identity; and assisting those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions and want to discover how they might also start upon the path ― a difficult path, as noted above ― to overcoming those desires.

Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?
We do not believe anyone chooses his or her same-sex attractions. We concur with the American Psychological Association's position that homosexuality is likely developmental in nature and caused by a "complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors" (www.apa.org). We would also agree with the American Psychiatric Association when it states "some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime." If you ever hear us use the word "choice," it is in relation to men and women who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions choosing to steward their impulses in a way that aligns with their faith convictions.

So the organization insists that they do not seek to convert gays to straights. They seek to help gay Christians who believe a lifestyle of being gay is wrong. They seek to help them live in a way that resists their same-sex attraction and keep their desires in check, the same way that Christians seek to help single heterosexuals to live a celibate life. It's clear that their language about overcoming their desires is not conversion to heterosexuality, since it's held up in contrast to exactly that.

Yet D'Oro's AP piece defines the group most fundamentally as promising to do the very thing they insist they do not seek to do.

Contact

    The Parablemen are: , , and .

Archives

Archives

Books I'm Reading

Fiction I've Finished Recently

Non-Fiction I've Finished Recently

Books I've Been Referring To