What if you never could tell a person’s sex?

Sometimes I see people complaining when they see someone who is transgender or where you can’t tell if they are male or female. There was a tremendously unfunny character on Saturday Night Live named “Pat” where the entire skit was about people trying to figure out if Pat was male or female. Has that happened to you?

Imagine for a minute if everyone was like that. Imagine you couldn’t tell from someone’s looks or their name or the clothes they wore whether they were male or female.

Would that change the way you treat them?

“But I’m single and I want to find a partner,” you say. Okay, fine. So does that mean you’ll only be friends with potential partners? Maybe you should get to know the person better first. If it turns out that they are not sexually compatible with you, what’s the problem? You have a new friend!

And if you treat someone thinking they are one gender only to find they are another, does that make you reconsider how you treat that gender?

This is not easy. We’ve been ingrained to place people into categories and have certain expectations from them, and it’s a hard thing to overcome, admittedly. But it might be a good idea every once in a while to think about people you know and work with and ask yourself if you would have treated them differently had they been a different gender.


This is a thought experiment about how we treat people differently whether they are women or men, and how if you didn’t know, how would you act. I’m not really talking about going somewhere like a party or a bar where sometimes the purpose is indeed finding someone you might want to be attracted to physically.

And for God’s sake, I LIKE looking at pretty women, so I don’t want that to go away. I don’t WANT everyone looking asexual, nor do I want to shame women who like to dress sexy.

I’m mostly talking about thinking about how you may treat women differently from men for things that have nothing to do with wanting them as a sexual partner. Do you treat female coworkers differently from male coworkers, for instance?)

Nobody gives you rights

Whenever I read “Lincoln gave the slaves freedom” or “Roe v. Wade gave women the right to their bodies” or “The Supreme Court gave gays the right to get married,” it always sounds strange.

If I steal your car and then return it, you don’t say “Michael gave me a car.”

The New Congress

New Democrats in Congress include:

  1. About 50% women
  2. People of all races
  3. The first Native American women ever elected to Congress
  4. The first LGBTQ representatives ever elected from several states
  5. The first Muslim women
  6. The first refugee
  7. The first openly bisexual Senator
  8. The first member of Congress of South American descent
  9. The first Latinas ever elected from Texas

New Republican Congress members include:

  1. White people (and only one woman)


Idiots: “Both parties are the same!”

women in congress graph


The time for civility is over

No, no, no. Fuck off. The time for civility is gone. Being kind and civil only allows the assholes who aren’t kind and civil to get their way. This is a war for the heart of America, and you don’t win wars through prayer, chanting, or turning the other cheek.


I am not advocating violence. I’m just saying that we have to stop playing “nice” against the bullies. We need to give them their own medicine.

For instance, if Trump was President and the democrats refused to have a hearing for his Supreme Court nominee, he would have appointed him anyway in a recess appointment. Obama didn’t do that because Obama isn’t an asshole.

Recess appointments have never been done with the Supreme Court. On the other hand, a party has never refused to hold hearings on a nominee either. So if they want to play those games, we shouldn’t clutch our pearls and swoon.

We need to treat them how they treat us because otherwise, they’re just beating us up, taking our lunch money, and laughing at us for not fighting back.

The GOP Kavanaugh responses simplified

“There’s someone accusing Kavanaugh”

“Well, that’s just one woman. That’s meaningless.”

“Here’s a second one.”

“Big deal, you can’t believe them. It’s only two.”

“A third one has just come forward.”

“Oh, three out of everyone who has ever known him? Not believable.”

“Number four has just talked.”

“Well, that’s just four women. That’s meaningless.”

(continue ad infinitum)


cartoon by Clay Bennett

“Women sometimes lie about these things!”

“I agree. So let’s have the FBI investigate.”

“Uhhhhhh…. no, let’s just attack her without making any attempt to ascertain the truth. We’re Republicans, after all. Truth doesn’t matter any more.”

“It’s clear this is all just a smear campaign — women do this to destroy powerful men!”

“Yes, that’s why so many women came out and accused Obama of sexual misconduct.  Oh, wait…”

“If every man is held to this standard, then we’ll never be able to choose someone!”

“Really? Every one of you Republican men did something like this to women in your past? Guess we’ll just have to fill the court with women.”

“If women are to always be believed, then no man is safe!”

“Uh, you do realize that most of us men have absolutely nothing to worry about, right?”

“Kavanaugh deserves a fair hearing!”

“Oh so now you’re concerned about fair hearings. Too bad Judge Garland didn’t get one.”

“We’re going to push this through like we want without any regard for the desires or wishes of any women!”

“Hey, what a coincidence! That’s what Kavanaugh said.”

Do We need an Equal Rights Amendment?

Back in the late 70s, when I was going to Virginia Commonwealth University, the ERA was constantly in the news and being debated. I obviously supported it, especially since at that time there were still many laws that discriminated on the basis of sex.


That’s me wearing my ERA YES button with my old band The Naughty Bits around 1979 or so. Back when I had hair.

It failed to get enough states by the deadline and it died.  However, the Supreme Court and Congress basically passed laws and decisions which outlawed most kinds of discrimination over those years, so the question remains: Do we still need it?

After all, the courts have held that the 14th Amendment protects the rights of “people” — aren’t women people? The Supreme Court recently held that gays are protected under the 14th (at least where marriage is concerned).

Then again, even with many laws prohibiting discrimination, the Supreme Court has upheld different treatment, especially concerning the military.

The ERA is in the news again because there is a movement in the Senate to open it back up again for passage — and then it will only need one more state to ratify it.

Here’s why that should happen: All the decisions in the world don’t matter when a new court full of Republican appointees decides that women aren’t “people” and rolls back previous decisions. All the laws Congress passes can be revoked and changed as well.

So yes, I support adding this amendment, even now. I’d support it even more if it included “sexual orientation” as well.

But that will be the next big fight.



When it’s okay to discriminate

There are times when it is perfectly fine to discriminate. If you’re casting a movie about Abraham Lincoln, you have every right to not hire a short Asian woman for the part (unless you want to for some artistic reason). If you’re looking for someone to teach the Bible to students at a private religious school, you have every right to demand that person believe in the same religion as you. If you have started a private club for “Children of Italian-American immigrants” then you have every right to keep out anyone else. It’s not really discrimination when it’s a required qualification.

The preference of your customer base is not a “qualification.” Years ago, airlines only hired women to be flight attendants, pointing to surveys that showed their customers preferred to be served by women than by men. No, the court ruled, that’s not a “qualification.” Customer preference to be served only by women (or by white people or by Christians) doesn’t matter because rights are not voted on. A majority of Americans didn’t want schools integrated either when the courts ruled that they must, but that doesn’t mean the majority was right.cee2630f696668c25134c32dfabd4c73

You can’t create qualifications that are simply there to discriminate and don’t have a rational relationship to the position. For instance, groups like the Jaycees and the Rotary Club used to exclude women from joining. Why? No real reason. The Supreme Court saw through that, pointing out that the goals of the club had absolutely nothing to do with things that only applied to men.

While you have the right to start your own private club (Freedom of Association. It’s there in the 1st Amendment), you don’t have the right to discriminate in public accommodations. Hotels, clubs, stores, and restaurants and other places are not allowed to discriminate and that means your club meeting in these places can’t discriminate when there isn’t a qualification.  Having these groups meet on your own personal property? Probably fine.

Yeah, that’s a gray area, but in general, you can’t create a group that discriminates for no reason. “The Christian Men’s Group” could discriminate if indeed they are doing things that are applicable only to Christian men, but if they’re just a front for an organization whose real purpose is to provide business networking while keeping out non-Christians and women, then probably not.

What about private clubs that discriminate by having a bodyguard stand outside and decide who gets in? Perfectly fine so long as the reason for denying entrance isn’t based on race or sex or anything prohibited by the 14th Amendment. You technically don’t have a “right” to visit a club or shop in a store, which is why these places can deny service if you’re disruptive or don’t meet their dress code (no shoes, no shirt, no service) or have some other reasonable reason not related to things prohibited by the law.

Recently, a member of a group called the “Sad Puppies” — butthurt snowflake selfish white male Trumpites who whine about things like the 1% of female leads in science fiction — was barred from attending a major science fiction convention after he stated that he planned to take disruptive action at the convention, having done similar things in the past. So of course, he claimed he was being “discriminated against” because of his political views. But no, it’s not “discrimination.” A private organization has the right to deny entry to anyone they think will disrupt their group, including for political disruptions.

There’s also been a group of men who claim that they are being discriminated against by women who refuse to have sex with them. I am not making this up. These entitled jerks call themselves “incels” for “involuntarily celibate.”  (I know, sounds like an Onion satire, doesn’t it?) As if women owe them sex simply because they’re men. These guys have their own web pages and everything where they whine about how terrible it is that nobody wants to have sex with them. These idiots are not being discriminated against.

And just a few days ago, a judge ruled that it wasn’t discrimination for a bar to throw out a guy wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, especially because they didn’t want to have to deal with fights and arguments in their establishment.

Remember, you have every right to hold whatever terrible political viewpoints you want. That is guaranteed to you under the Constitution. You don’t have the right to demand that anyone else provide you with a place or a forum for you to express those opinions, nor do you have the right to demand that someone let you into their group when they believe you don’t meet their standards. No shirt no shoes no service.

If you choose to be the kind of guy people can’t stand to be around and they say they don’t want you near them, that’s not discrimination. You chose to be that person.

As Frank Zappa said, “It’s okay to discriminate against assholes, because nobody was born an asshole.”

Fighting Sexual Roles

I saw this meme on Facebook today and it made me think.24775259_1853122084730179_8114016821816398901_n

Our society pushes these stereotypes and it’s up to us to reject them as well as to protest when someone tries to force us into those roles or shame us for not following those roles.

Insulting men who cook or clean is common, and some men refuse to learn not because they are spoiled brats but because they’re giving in to peer pressure that calls them pussies for doing housework.

And women face the same problems, being insulted for not being “lady-like” when they enjoy fixing cars or building things.

My wife, award-winning artist Heidi Hooper, faced a lot of that in her past, especially when we were younger, growing up in the south, and dealing with long-held stereotypes. Being told women can’t do metalwork made her study metal sculpting. And there were many times when we’d go into a hardware store and this would happen:

Clerk: Good day, sir, can I help you find something?

Me: (points to Heidi)

Heidi: Yes, I need (obscure tool I know nothing about).

Clerk: (glances at me, concerned, turns back to Heidi): What do you need it for?

Heidi: I know exactly what I need it for. Now where is it?

Society pushes us and pressures us into these stereotypes and it’s up to us to refuse to be placed into these neat little boxes. But, depending on your family, religion, and other factors, it may be harder for some than others to break out of the mold.

So don’t necessarily insult men who fall into the stereotypes and don’t know how to do basic housework; instead, encourage them and let them know it’s all right to do these things.

Unless they really are spoiled brats who are just using it as an excuse. To Hell with those guys.

“Let me tell you how you feel”

“Why are most of the animals in ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ male?” asked a female reviewer.

I thought that was a good question. It’s not like there was a plot reason to have the characters male. petsSo I posted that article on a page devoted to animation, and immediately was attacked. “Oh, here go the feminists again!” they said. “This woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about” and so on.

All from men, of course.

I expected one to scream “All cartoons matter!”

I always try to listen to the experts. When the vast majority of scientists are telling me that climate change is real and vaccinations are good, I tend to listen. I don’t have any experience in that area.

Similarly, it is tremendously frustrating for me as a lawyer who once taught Constitutional Law to be lectured by some high school dropout about the meaning of the second amendment.

Everyone reading this is an expert in something. Your job, your hobbies, your life — how do you like it when someone tries to tell you you’re wrong about something you know better than anyone else?

So when women tell you that the lack of representation in a film is important to them, don’t go tell them they shouldn’t feel that way. If black people are telling you that they fear the police and are targeted by them often, don’t go saying that they are wrong.

Let’s assume they’re the experts here.


Supreme Court sees through Republican bullshit

One of the key strategies of Republicans lately has been to create a fake problem and then “solve it” in such a way that the real result takes away rights from people they don’t like.

There’s the fake “voting fraud” issue where their solution just happens to have the side effect of removing many Democrats from the voting rolls.

There’s the fake “transgender bathroom” issue where their solution just happens to take the rights away from people who merely want to pee in peace.

And of course, there are plenty of other fake issues they create, sometimes for the sole purpose of riling up their base and raising money. (War on Christmas, Benghazi, Obama is going to take all your guns, etc. etc.)

One of their more successful fake problems was the “protection of women” one. In many states, laws were passed to require clinics that provide abortions to meet standards that were completely unnecessary and which have nothing to do with the health of women. These restrictions made half of the clinics in Texas shut down.

The Supreme Court saw through all that today. The decision found that these restrictions “provide few if any health benefits for women, pose a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions and constitutes a, ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

Cartoon by Ann Telnaes. Yes, I know Scalia isn’t there any more, but I just love this drawing.

Do not underestimate the importance of the Court on your life. They are a way to protect your rights against rabid legislatures. And that’s why it is so important that you vote for Democrats, not just for the presidency but for Senate (so the President can get her nominees approved).