Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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There are compliments and then there are compliments

***Edited to add:  This post is intended to bring awareness to the subtle sexist subtext(say that three times fast!) that permeates society.  It is not intended to slay or skewer anyone for having questions.  This issue is complex and confusing and we are all conditioned by our cultures and subcultures. 

In the last post Professor Taboo asked the following question:

Can women please list for us hetero men 10-20 appropriate ways to verbally (and non-verbally) compliment them intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically that THEY find acceptable and uplifting? Please do not leave any of the four areas out.
Thank you! :)

My initial reaction to the question was…angst.  How hard can it be to compliment people without being sexist?  How hard can it be to compliment a woman without it being sexual?

My initial reaction as probably reactionary because we had just been discussing how to treat “scantily clad” women in a bar.  And then I was asked if it was sexist to wolf-whistle at a woman in a short skirt.  So when the question was asked I was viewing it in that context.   As if he were asking, “Well, if we can’t wolf-whistle, and we can’t cat-call and we can’t tell you you’re hot, just what the hell can we say?”

Turns out that’s not so much what The Professor was asking.  I think many men do want to know what is and isn’t appropriate.  Sincerely.

Many things sprang to mind when I thought about what my answer to that question is.  I didn’t come up with 15 or 20 but here are a few that immediately entered my mind:

1.)  Wow!  That’s really your color.  It brings out your eyes.

2.)  You’ve got a great sense of humor!

3.)  You’re a very interesting person!

4.) You’re intelligent.

5.) Your smile is infectious.

6.)  You’re very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

7.)  I like your work ethic.

8.) You’re so easy to talk to.

9.)  You’re a good listener.

10.)  You make the world a better place.

Some of these require that you have an actual conversation before you begin complimenting.  Some of these can be conversation starters.  ALL of these apply to any gender.

Immediately following Professor Taboo’s question Swarn Gill left a couple of comments.  These are prime examples of how to compliment a person in a way that is uplifting and positive but which carry no hint at a hidden agenda:

You are an interesting person. I’d rather just sit down and have a conversation with you!

And:

You are a much better writer than I am which is both annoying and great a the same time, but somehow just reading what you have to say has me completely agreeing but also going off in all sorts of directions.

Both of these comments made me feel really good about myself.  It let me know that I have value and that I’m appreciated as a person.  Not as a person of the female persuasion but as a person regardless of my gender.

About the wolf-whistling and cat-calling.  Just. Don’t.

This may come as a surprise but most women do not dress to attract men.  [Most] women dress for other women.  It’s a daily competition and most women would rather be complimented on their dress by other women.  It just means more.

[Most] women also dress for their own comfort.  I’ve been known to wear a dress above the knee or shorts.  I live in South Georgia.  Otherwise known as hell in the summer time.  If I wear a tank top and shorts it isn’t to attract a man.  It’s because I’m freakin’ hot.  And I don’t mean the way I look.

Wolf-whistling and cat-calling – especially from someone I’ve never met- is intimidating.  It’s presumptive.  You might think that I’m stretching it to say that it’s not that far a hop to rape but when a man does that it shows that he’s aggressive.  It feels more about power than it does about complimenting anyone.  If a man would wolf-whistle or cat-call a woman he’s never met what else might he do given the opportunity?

When giving any sort of compliment the foremost thing should be sincerity.  Don’t say things you don’t mean.  It’s patronizing.  Think about what message the other person is going to get.  Don’t be superficial about it.  Show the person that you’ve really taken the time to notice what is important to them.

The important thing is to treat people with respect.  This is how we can address the more subtle sexism and misogyny that permeates society.


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Missing the Point

70mb film, uppercut select

Is that a whole forest over there?  Or is it just trees?  I can hardly tell the difference.

I, myself, have been guilty of saying that political correctness can go too far. It can be taken to extremes.  But is it political correctness that is taken to extremes or is it that we are trying to tip toe around delicate issues to the extent that we don’t want to hurt anyone’s wee wittle feelings at the expense of honesty?

My last post shone a spotlight on what it means to miss the point.  It is easy to spot sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc….etc…etc…

…in everyone else.  We tend to have a gargantuan blind spot when it comes to ourselves.  I am no exception to that. Oh, how I wish I were.

We often try to justify it when we say or do something inappropriate, hurtful, or uncouth.  When we’re called out on it we get defensive and immediately begin the damage control. Human nature rules the day.  When we say it or do it we want everyone else to know how “not racist” or “not sexist” or “not homophobic” we are.  We’d never!

But we just did.  How to reconcile momentary lapses of judgement with personal character…well, that is the rub, isn’t it?

Are we missing the big picture?  The broader concept of what’s being said is completely lost the minute we begin rationalizing our own behavior.  We can’t see the forest for the trees.

These posts are not meant to either endorse nor condemn any particular lifestyles or life choices.  These posts are meant to highlight both the blatant and subtle sexist and misogynist undercurrent that permeates society.

Let me make this clear if I haven’t already.  I think men are as much a product of society as women are.  The way they were raised, the messages we receive from the media and advertisements, the systematic undermining of minority groups and those perceived as weaker – all of that plays into the dynamics of society.  The top dog wants to stay the top dog all the while protesting that they endorse equality.

Oh, yes, we endorse equality.  As long as it doesn’t diminish our own privileged place.  But wait, equality might just mean that privilege isn’t so much a privilege anymore.  It might mean…we are all of equal value as individuals.

This is an easy concept to say one is in favor of.  Yes, on paper that looks like it should, in fact, be so.  But what about individually?  Do we, with our own sense of entitlement, push anyone who dares gain an equal footing back down? Are we, individually, missing the point?

 


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Can the Frogs Get Out of the Pot?

In my last post I talked about the excesses of male privilege. It might have come across that I’m averse to affection. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m a hugger. I like to give hugs and get hugs – appropriate hugs. I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman.

The trouble is casual sexism and misogyny often go overlooked. Women look the other way when there are catcalls on the street. Or when they’re told to, “smile, it’ll get better.” Or when the joke is at the expense of their gender. All because they don’t want to appear as though they don’t have a sense of humor, or can’t take a joke, or a compliment, for that matter.

A compliment is: “That’s a nice dress”. A man who works here in the office with me told me one day that I always dress so classy. I didn’t take that as a pass. He wasn’t looking me up and down. I didn’t get the impression he was undressing me with his eyes. I didn’t think it sexist or misogynist. I politely smiled and said thank you. Because, yes, I can take a compliment.

Not only can women take compliments, but we do, indeed, appreciate appropriate affection. Appropriate affection can be a touch on the shoulder – not a massage. Touch and move on. It’s nice to know a person cares about you. An affectionate greeting with a small, friendly, hug is appropriate. Sliding your hands below the waist down to the small of a woman’s back and not letting go is not a friendly greeting.

I know that what a person looks like is the first thing we notice as human beings, but don’t rate us solely on that score alone. We’re tired of comparing ourselves to airbrushed Victoria’s Secret models and trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. We look in the mirror everyday and instead of seeing beauty we see flaws.

To the men out there, you no longer need to wield a club and drag a woman by her hair to your cave. We aren’t pieces of meat on display at the market. We aren’t property to be claimed. Think about the scenarios in which you are involved. If it were happening in the reverse would it be uncomfortable? Creepy? Inappropriate? If it would be then it’s uncomfortable, creepy and inappropriate. Period.

To the women out there, it’s time for us to stop glossing over misogyny and laughing along with sexist jokes. When we do that we’re only sending the message that it’s okay; that it doesn’t bother us; that we accept unequal treatment.  We perpetuate misogyny and sexism when we seek to profit from it. We need to send the clear message that inequality is a problem and we’re not going to take it anymore.

Casual sexism and misogyny may not seem ‘that bad’.  It doesn’t have to be ‘that bad’ to be wrong.  Isn’t inequality a good enough reason to address these issues and make them better?  It is the only way we’ll ever climb out of the pot of boiling water.

I do see progress over where we were even twenty years ago.  It is slow, but it is progress.  Sometimes, though, it seems like two steps forward and one step back.  Thank you to all the male readers who expressed concern and compassion over these issues.  Perhaps there is hope after all.

Well, this sermon hasn’t been three points and a prayer, but how about a poll(thanks for the idea, Roughseasinthemed) and a song?

 

I also want to open up the comment section, not only to discussion about the content of the post, but to any woman who would like to share her story.  Not to make any men uncomfortable, but sometimes it helps just to be able to share it, even anonymously.


52 Comments

We’re All Frogs in a Pot

[TRIGGER WARNING: This article may contain content about misogyny, sexism, sexual abuse, or assault which may be triggering to survivors.]

Indoctrination into patriarchy starts young. Very young. Even to girls whose parents don’t particularly subscribe to patriarchy. Boys get the same subtle hints at it, too. But they are on the top of the food chain. I’m sure it has negative effects, but I can’t speak for boys or men. I can speak for girls and women.
I am not unique in my experiences. Let that sink in as you read the rest of this post. Girls and women all over the world experience these things and worse every single day. This is hardly rare. So this is also not a tale of woe or how my life has been terrible. It hasn’t. This is to highlight exactly how commonplace misogyny and sexism are in all its forms, some blatant and some subtle.

Growing up I wasn’t what I would have classified as pretty. I was an ugly duckling. In fact, the boys at school let me know that I was on the opposite end of the spectrum on the regular. I looked like a boy. Ugly girls aren’t to be talked to. They’re to be talked about, the butt of the joke. They sure aren’t worth much. We learn at a pretty early age to just shake it off. Let it roll off like water off a duck’s back. It’s going to happen so we might as well learn to live with it. Does it hurt? Of course. But we learn early that looks are important and that they’re part of the package of anything that resembles worth. Keep that in mind as I tell you what I’m about to tell you.

When I was maybe six or seven, I went to the neighbor’s house to see if Margaret could come out and play. She wasn’t there. There was normally a house full of people there, but that day only her older brother was home. I don’t know how old he was, but he had already graduated from high school, so he must have been at least eighteen. At first he told me that she was there and that I could go on into her room where she was. When I got to her empty room and turned around there he stood in the narrow hallway of that two-bedroom house. He asked me if we were friends. I said, “Not really.”

As I tried to walk past he knelt down and put his hand on the wall blocking my path. My back against the wall, he leaned in close and said, “We can be friends. Let me show you what friends do.” With that he shoved me into the bedroom and pulled my pants down and his. No, he didn’t go quite that far either. His friends pulled up into the driveway and blew the horn. My salvation. He gathered himself, made me crawl through their house to the side door, and told me to wait until they had gone to leave. We could see my dad out the window in the door. He pointed to him and said I’d better not tell. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to him, would I? I never went back even when I knew other people were there and I didn’t tell.

When I was fifteen I got my first job. My granny and granddaddy got me the job. There was a man in town they knew who installed insulation who needed a part-time secretary. It was the summer and he’d give me all the hours I wanted until school and then it would be part-time. He was my grandparents’ age, which seemed old to me at the time, but probably in his mid to late fifties. He paid in cash. I was supposed to answer the phone, make appointments, sweep the floor, take payments, and make deposits. I thought I’d hit the jackpot because he was going to pay me two hundred and fifty dollars – in cash – every week! He rarely had checks. He always had wads of cash. I heard later that the insulation business was just a front for something far more lucrative. I have no idea if that’s true or not.

Things went pretty well the first week. I did all the things I was supposed to do and he seemed pleased with the work I’d done. Then it happened. He would come into his office in the morning before he went out to job sites and then in the afternoons around five. He sat at his desk and pulled me into his lap. I pulled away. He let it go. Then he started hugging me and trying to kiss me and trying to fondle me. After about a week of that I quit. I lasted all of two weeks. My granny came to see me because France had told her I quit. She wasn’t happy. It made them look bad because they had vouched for me. When I told her what happened her response was, “Every man likes to have a little pat on the rear – a secretary they can give a little squeeze.” The lesson? The bodies of women are for the pleasures of men. I still didn’t go back. Granny still wasn’t happy.

Mama hired a preacher to do some carpentry work at the house. Elbert Cox. He made me really uncomfortable. He liked to hug a little too close and a little too long. He liked to caress when he hugged and look into my eyes. Later he got arrested for having sex with an underage member of his church. Last I heard he’d repented and gotten another preaching job.

Then there was Mr. Eatman. He was a deacon at the church we went to. Dirty old man. He liked to hug a little too close, slide his hands a little too low, and give a peck on the lips. Only a peck because that was all he was getting a chance at.

In each instance I got the impression these men thought that I should be thrilled at the attention. They were perplexed that I wasn’t.

When I tried to talk to my mother about it she brushed it off. They were just being men. I wasn’t the only one they were doing it to, either. My friends and I talked about it and it happened to them, too. They felt just as uncomfortable as I did. Their parents were equally as nonplussed. No big deal. Men being men.

The lesson? Sweep it under the rug. Don’t make waves. It’s expected. Might as well learn to live with it. We’re here for the pleasure of men.

When I began to date my future husband he took me around to meet his grandparents. A few months later I saw his granddad in the bakery. He spoke, we chatted for a minute, and I went on my way. He told Charles about the encounter and said, “You know, when you first brought her to the house I thought she was homely. She looked really pretty the other day when I saw her. Son, she’s a keeper.” A backhanded compliment if there ever was one, but subtle. I eagerly accepted the compliment. Implicit in that is that if I were homely I wouldn’t be worth keeping. Throw that ugly fish back. Apparently my face had caught up to the rest of my body.

My ex husband had a saying about women who had an attractive figure but wasn’t particularly attractive in the face. He would say they were “two-baggers”. Put two bags over her head in case one falls off. His friend had a crass joke about having sex with an overweight woman, “It’s like riding a moped. It’s fun until someone sees you doing it.” All of her worth wrapped up in what she looks like. I am ashamed to say that I laughed an uncomfortable laugh. I didn’t want to be that girl – the one with no sense of humor.

I could go on. I have more examples. I’m not even telling the half of it, really.

The world we live in is misogynistic and sexist. If women fight back against the tide it is said that we can’t take a joke or we’ve got a case of sour grapes. I may be wrong, like I said I can’t speak for men, but I can’t remember hearing any quaint little sayings about men who might be less than attractive. I don’t hear of that many cases of women groping and fondling. When it does happen, if the advance is rebuffed it is respected. Men are allowed to have boundaries. Women are not. We are here for the pleasure of men.

You see, it starts when we’re young. Slowly, steadily, progressively, methodically we’re taught that a woman’s worth is in whether or not a man will have her. Men and boys are equally caught up in systematic misogyny and sexism. It isn’t entirely their fault. They have been indoctrinated, too. We are all like frogs in a pot. Place them in while the water is nice and cool, slowly turn up the heat, and they won’t even realize they need to jump out.

Let me be clear. I know that not all men are like that. But these are instances that average women deal with on a daily basis. These are not isolated incidents. It is there. When you hear women talk about rape culture, this is exactly what they’re talking about. The implications all around us are that the female half of the population is here at the pleasure of men and we ought to be damn glad about it. We should feel honored to have the privilege.

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**Edited to fix the formatting.  Jesus H. Christ I will never write a post in Word and do a copy and paste again!


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All Bible Scholars Agree . . . Or Do They?

Reblogging the work of others is something I seldom do.  However this is such an excellent article that I thought it was worth repeating.  I’m not sure how many of you read the very excellent blog Vridar. I’m providing a link here so you can go check it out.  I’d encourage you to do so and leave a comment there for Neil.  Neil Godfrey has written a response to the, “All Bible scholars agree” or “Scholarly consensus is” line so often trotted out by apologists with regards to Jesus existence and archaeological evidence.  I’ll let Neil speak for himself:

All Bible Scholars Agree . . . (so what?)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

 

No scholar employed by a major university doubts Jesus existed. 

scholars

One sometimes reads a claim like this by a theologian or bible scholar although generally they will more modestly say only that no scholar employed by a theology or biblical studies department holds this view.

How should we evaluate such a claim?

The intention behind the claim is to persuade us to accept the authority of biblical scholarship in the same way we might accept the authoritative claims of scientists, engineers or doctors.

But the difference should be obvious to all. The sciences are about universal physical facts; biblical studies are a culturally limited and ideological area of interest.

What if we were to read an Islamic scholar saying no scholar of the Koran or Islam at a reputable university believes Jesus was crucified or doubts Mohammad rose to heaven on a flying horse?

Look, also, at the Who’s Who table to see who in relatively recent years have confessed to doubts about the most fundamental claim of biblical scholarship. Highly respected linguists, philosophers and scientists as well as a broad range of literature scholars, psychologists, engineers are on the list.

These are people who do know how to evaluate claims and are not going to be fobbed off with authoritative declarations about what “bible scholars believe”. These are not people who are somehow perverse eccentrics who are just as likely to be found wondering if Young Earth Creationists are right after all.

People know biblical scholarship does not hold the same universal authoritative status as the medical sciences. It is not hard to find scholars in the sciences even mocking the whole discipline of theology for its ill-informed pretensions to accommodation with evolution.

All authority should be held accountable and welcome challenges if it is to validly justify itself.

Everyone knows the study of the bible is far more of an ideological interest than are the sciences. There is no doubt that most scholars who have taken up biblical studies do so out of a personal religious interest. Most are Christians, liberal or conservative.

The token atheists in their ranks for most part acknowledge that they were once believers and that is why they took up their studies. Others who claim to be atheists or agnostics are very often quiet publicly about their past interests so we can only wonder. Past interest is clearly very important in the eyes of a good number of these scholars as we can see from the way some of them are quick to accuse peers like Robert Price (and even Bart Ehrman) of embracing their critical views as a reaction against past fundamentalism. On the other hand no atheists are faulted for the possibility that they continues to believe elements of their old fundamentalist faith in order to cling to some relics of their past and not admit they were totally wrong about everything.

I only know of one prominent bible scholar who had no religious background at all and took up his studies for purely intellectual interests. I’m sure there must be others but surely they are very few. And one thing he and other scholars agree on, both atheists and believers, is the nature of the ideological domination of biblical studies.

But don’t get me wrong.

I enjoy reading a wide range of scholarly works related to the origins of the Bible and Christianity. (Lest you think I’m obsessed I should point out that I enjoy reading on many other topics: in the last couple of months I have also read works on cosmologyevolution, and Chinese history among others.) The main reason I wanted to start this blog years ago was to share some of the interesting things I was reading about biblical studies that I thought many others would likewise find interesting and informative.

The more one reads the more one’s critical skills are honed. One book never has the final word on any topic. One becomes increasingly aware of the biases and assumptions of the different authors. That doesn’t mean we throw their work in the bin but it does mean we can better evaluate their arguments and learn in the process.

But sometimes one finds a bible scholar making a declaration of authority for his/her entire academic guild that strikes me as blind hubris.

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***Neil Godfrey does not  personally endorse other views on this blog.


29 Comments

May I See Your ID, Please?

One of the headlines on my local morning news this morning addressed a bill that is before the Florida State Senate. It limits the use of public restrooms by transgender persons.  One legislator says that the bill is to prevent rapes, molestations, voyeurism, and other bathroom crimes.   From the Associated Press:

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Transgender women would have to use women’s public bathrooms and transgender men would have to use men’s rooms unless they have a license or passport that proves they’ve completed their transition to their new sex under a bill that passed its first committee.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee approved the bill Wednesday after listening to more than an hour of emotional testimony from transgender residents who oppose it and supporters who said people shouldn’t be using bathrooms designated for the opposite sex.

Republican Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami said the bill was needed to prevent rapes, molestations, voyeurism and other crimes in bathrooms.

But opponents said the bill was simply a way to discriminate against transgender people.

 

At the end of the news show there was a poll asking what the viewers thought of this legislation.  I took the poll just so I could see the results.  Here they are, folks:

TransPoll

I must say I was a little astonished at the numbers.  I expected it to be the other way around and here’s why:

Are transgendered people more likely to commit any of these crimes than cisgendered people?  How exactly is this going to curtail crime in bathroom facilities?  If a person is a pervert they will still be a pervert after their transition, won’t they?  I would venture to guess that there are more pervy cisgendered people than there are transgendered people. According to transgenderlaw.org :

An estimated 2 to 5% of the population is transgender (i.e., experience some degree of genderdysphoria). The number of people who identify as transsexual and undergo sex-resassignment is smaller. Recent statistics from the Netherlands indicate that about 1 in 12,000 natal males undergo sex-reassignment and about 1 in 34,000 natal females. Over time, the gap between the reportednumbers of MTF and FTM transsexuals is closing.

How will this law be enforced?  Who will police public restrooms and ask for identification?  Isn’t that a violation of privacy?  If a person is dressed as a male how would anyone know that they aren’t one?  Is everyone going to have to produce an ID to go to a public restroom in the state of Florida?  Or will you only be asked for ID if it’s suspected you might not be the gender on the door?  What happens when a effeminate man is asked for his ID upon entering the men’s room?  What happens when a masculine woman is asked for hers when she tries to go into the women’s bathroom?

I’m scratching my head and wondering what on earth people are thinking. Fear is a powerful motivator.  We are afraid of what we don’t understand.  And if you are different we are very afraid of you.  We even imagine sick and twisted things that you will do if you aren’t monitored closely.

Yes, Americans, this is the kind of asinine legislation our lawmakers are spending our tax money on.  I feel safer.  Don’t you?

I’m intrigued, though, so I’m going to have the same poll here.  I’d like to see what you all think.  Is this a stupid as I think it is, or am I being obtuse?

 

Here’s a link to the news story.  I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how to embed the video.  http://up.anv.bz/latest/anvload.html?key=eyJtIjoiZ3JheSIsInAiOiJkZWZhdWx0IiwidiI6IjMwNzY0NjkiLCJwbHVnaW5zIjp7ImRmcCI6eyJhZFRhZ1VybCI6Imh0dHA6Ly9wdWJhZHMuZy5kb3VibGVjbGljay5uZXQvZ2FtcGFkL2Fkcz9zej02NDB4NDgwJml1PS8zMDE3MjE3MTUvV0NUViZjaXVfc3pzJmltcGw9cyZnZGZwX3JlcT0xJmFkX3J1bGU9MSZ2cG9zPXByZXJvbGwmZW52PXZwJm91dHB1dD14bWxfdmFzdDImdW52aWV3ZWRfcG9zaXRpb25fc3RhcnQ9MSZjb3JyZWxhdG9yPVt0aW1lc3RhbXBdJmNtc2lkPTc1NSZ2aWQ9QU5WX0dSVFZfMzA3NjkzOSJ9LCJhbmFseXRpY3MiOnsicGRiIjo0NDQyNDE3OX19fQ

 

 

 

 

 


58 Comments

Coming Out of the Dark….

…Ages, that is.

“When evil is called good, darkness is ushered into the land. And with the darkness comes a threat to our freedoms,”  says Janet Porter, author of the Faith2Action documentary, The Criminalization of Christianity, as she walks into view in the darkness under a moonlit forest, the tree branches bare.

What is this evil, you might ask?  The gays.  It’s always the gays.

Conservative Christians are alleging all sorts of actions by the “gay agenda”, such as making it illegal for a business that has an owner who has Biblical principles from opening in specific locations. Mike Huckabee has this to say:

What kind of freedom of speech do we have, if a person who expresses a biblical viewpoint about marriage is told they can’t open their business in a location?”

Yes, there has been much controversy over wedding services providers refusing service to LGBT couples.  Nowhere has anyone been told that if they have a Biblical viewpoint they cannot open their business. They have been told that they may not discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation.  In turn, businesses have screamed loud and long about having the right to refuse service to anyone they see fit.  It’s quite reminiscent of the days when businesses could refuse service to people based on the color of their skin.

In response to the upholding of non-discrimination laws some businesses have opted to shut their businesses down.  Not really.  They close their storefronts and then continue to operate out of their homes.

Another Conservative Christian pastor has this to say:

...homosexual activists get everything they want. Nothing less than criminalization of Christianity.

Listen, conservatives, it’s not that hard.  No one is forcing homosexuality on you.  The legalization of homosexual marriage in no way forces you to be homosexual.  How is that so hard to comprehend?    What you don’t seem to recognize is that what you want to do absolutely is forcing your lifestyle on others.  If you get to dictate whether or not consenting adults can marry then it is you who is cramming your morality down the throats of those who do not agree with you.

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