March 25, 2007

QueerToday missed the point this time.

I've been reading QueerToday every week for almost a year. It wasn't until this weekend that I finally felt fed up. My specific complaint is with the most recent post, titled MassEquality Supports The War!. This statement, along with the rest of the post, is both nonsensical and misleading.

(Disclosure/disclaimer: Though I publish here pseudomymously as bat_dor, my name is Ruthie, and my day job is MassEquality's IT manager [everyone else does the important work; I just keep their computers running.] I am not an official spokesperson for MassEquality, and whenever I write on QuenchZine, I am speaking only for myself and not for my employer.)

First, let me make a statement that I had hoped was obvious, but bears restating: MassEquality exists to defend equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. Period.

Here's why it doesn't make sense to say that MassEquality supports the war: MassEquality's mission has nothing to do with foreign policy. Why would anyone even expect the organization to stake any position on the war? Again, MassEquality's entire raison d'être is same-sex marriage in this state. Iraq is outside the scope of the organization's interest.

There seems to be this expectation that MassEquality must represent every progressive, gay, queer, radical, leftist, or liberal person in the Commonwealth. And that's the larger mistake that QueerToday's authors seem to keep making. MassEquality does not purport to represent the queer community. Or the gay community. Or the Democrats. Or the young. Or the progressives. Or the liberals. Or [insert group here.] MassEquality represents its members -- people who, regardless of their own sexuality and politics and marital status, believe that people ought to be able to marry their significant other in Massachusetts, even if they are the same sex.

I always love telling MassEquality staff that I will not wear their stickers because I am queer.

I'm not straight, and for me, marriage encompasses the sort of relationship that I hope to find myself in someday. That said, I know that for many of my friends, marriage feels pretty damn heteronormative. And since being queer means partially or totally rejecting heteronormativity, I can totally understand how someone who identifies strongly as 'queer' could feel uncomfortable supporting an organization dedicated to protecting civil marriage rights. I respect the right of the authors of QueerToday to not support MassEquality's mission. I just wish they would do it more honestly; I wish they'd say, "It's not that we don't think same-sex partners shouldn't be able to get married in the eyes of the government -- it's that we don't think the government should be marrying ANYONE."

Of course, that begs the classic progressivism versus radicalism question: is it better to work to find a place for non-straight people within the system of civil marriage, or is the system so flawed that the only solution is to throw it out entirely? I know how I'd answer, but I'm curious to hear from other quenchbloggers and guests. Comments are open.

On a final note, I'd like everyone to notice that I was careful to use the word 'organization.' It's important to distinguish between MassEquality-the-organization, and the individuals who work for it. I am one of these individuals, and for me personally, the war in Iraq IS important. I am the child of veterans. I am opposed to senseless bloodshed and (speaking of nonsensical) spreading freedom at the point of a gun. On Saturday, I marched.


Anonymous said...

I think the point is that even if MassEquality is not specifically intending to work on the war, it ended up doing it by supporting pro-war people and helping to get them in office. So they could support the war.

In this way, it supported the war. And it knew or could have known it was doing it just by looking up the candidates' positions on the war - it was trying to get them elected after all.

MassEquality supported the war.

The flip side is that you want your representatives to be able to agree with you on one issue even if they disagree with you on others. That's basically what single-issue groups like this do and that's what you are arguing for.

I am not saying that this is easily avoidable working on this kind of large change. I am just saying that it's worth being realistic about what is happenning.

They also supported many anti-war candidates, perhaps even more anti-war candidates.

Anonymous said...

MEQ does support the two party system, and capitalism in general - which will always divide and opress us all.

My good friend put it best:
"Of course MEQ/HRC are operating within the framework of the Democratic/Republican parties, parties of big business and the pentagon defense contractors. These are the behind the scene pupppeteers who really contriol things in the democratic party (as Cindy Sheehan pointed out Saturday iib her speech). New Bedford-style raids, worker exploitation, racism and imperialist war are all on the menu of the ruling classes and MEQ/HRC wants us to order an appetizer of gay marriage off this menu and accept the rest of the main course. We must say no to the whole program of capitalist divide and conquer, exploitation and imperialism.

There are probably over a million undocumented LGBTQ people in the US who came here with millions of their sisters and brothers to try to find a way to survive after US overseas corporations and US funded death squads and secret police devestated their countries with exploitative trade practices, NAFTA, US mercenaries, etc.etc.. "

Mark D. Snyder said...

At queertoday we think the prioritization of marriage in our community was and is a bad idea, and the public campaigns around the issue have been detrimental at times. We are not against extending the rights of marriage to same-sex couples - in fact we wish all kinds of families could have those rights. That is a message we have repeated again and again and again. We are honest.

Megan said...

Ruthie, Thank you for your transparency--revealing your role as an employee of the organization being discussed. I understand your position. You work for MassEquality and in that regard, your defense of them makes sense. However, this conflict of interest severely weakens your counter-argument.

Perhaps, you should stick to thirst-quenching issues that don't pay your rent.

alex said...

MEQ operates in a way that coopts the work of progressive organizers and politics. By canvassing at the anti-war protests, without being organizers of the march and without declaring any stance on the war itself, MEQ acted as an opportunistic organization that took advantage of those who organized the Saturday march. I understand the need for MEQ to not publicly come out against the war. While I might prefer that they were able to do that, I realize the political system that we operate in currently prohibits that. That's fine (well, not actually). But if they're not going to be anti-war, they should NOT be riding on the backs of the anti-war movement.

Anonymous said...

I was actually happy to see MassEquality at the anti-war event. Even though it would be better if they made a public statement, it was nice to at least see them there.

bat dor said...

Mark: Thank you for clarifying QueerToday's position on same-sex marriage. I carefully read through all of QueerToday's postings mentioning MassEquality before posting, but somehow I confused QueerToday's criticisms of MassEquality's campaign strategies with a criticism of the substance of MassEquality's core mission. It wasn't until a second read-through today that I understood this distinction. I apologize; I should not have implied dishonesty.

That said, I'm a pretty good reader, and it took me two read-throughs PLUS your comment here on QuenchZine to arrive at this more nuanced understanding of QueerToday's position. When QueerToday makes statements like "MassEquality supports the war", it's easy for a casual reader to think that QueerToday rejects MassEquality's strategy, tactics, AND mission. I am glad that QueerToday does not. Perhaps QueerToday could make this point clearer?

Also, Mark, I see that you've added a few paragraphs to the original post. For the sake of honesty and transparency, perhaps you could denote the new paragraphs as such?

Megan: I think you're confusing cause and effect. I am not defending MassEquality because I work for them. Rather, I work for them because I agree with their cause and their campaign strategies. It's that agreement, along with a strong desire for honesty in all dialogue, that makes me want to defend the organization from misleading and potentially damaging remarks, not my paycheck. I'm struggling not to take offense at your implication that my opinion and my words can be bought. They're not, nor have they ever been, nor will they ever be on sale.

Mark D. Snyder said...

I do disagree with MEQ's tacticts, strategy, etc. I do not think marriage should be the issue that defines our community and is our number one priority.

I do have criticisms of MEQ's core mission. I think our community would have been better served if all of our leaders and organizations joined with other goups like women's rights, etc. and faught for nationalized universal health care and lower drug prices along with protections for all kinds of families. I would rather see all of the LGBT organizations join with other progressives and fight to change the system in which we give benefits and protections to families, rather than fighting on our own to assimilate into a system that was created to control family units and make it easier for corporations to use us. We are all wrapped up in marriage yet we can still be fired in over 30 states and our youth are facing an epidemic of homelessness.

MEQ is willing to endorse candidates who believe immigrants do not deserve rights, or who are pro-war, to save same-sex marriage. That is unfortunate.

That said...I understand and support lgbt families who want the benefits of marriage and they should absolutely have those benefits.

And, now that we are in this mess, we need to win - because I do not want to endure two years+ of anti-gay radio, tv, print, billboards etc. That would likely increase violence against those of us who conform the least.

I regret speaking on behalf of all the bloggers of queertoday. I am not sure if they all agree with me or not actually - and we are all free to express ourselves much like you all can here at quench.

I appreciate the debate, and I appreciate quench!

Julie said...

It is the unfortunate case that one must vote for whole candidates and may not pick and choose only the favorable elements of their platforms. However, interest groups DO act this way, because their objective is to highlight and publicize certain candidates' positions concerning ONLY a specific issue (whether or not this is the right way to go about things is a whole other argument). But even though this is the case, I have great difficulty imagining that MEQ would support any candidate who held other beliefs that were extraordinarily undesirable (i.e. someone who, despite a pro-gay-marriage stance, was extremely bigoted toward other marginalized groups). In practice, of course, the cases aren't ever that cut-and-dry, and I think it's illogical to expect MEQ to consistently support candidates with a specific position regarding foreign policy/pro life/pro choice/pro environment/etc. That said, it also isn't MEQ's job to play dumb and pretend as though voters can elect only one element of the candidates MEQ endorses. If MEQ supports a pro-war candidate and gets that candidate elected, then of course the organization is supporting war. But since they get anti-war candidates into office as well, they can be said to support the anti-war agenda too. Ideally, since this isn't the deciding factor for candidate support, candidates MEQ endorses will be on both sides of the fence and will therefore cancel each other out on all issues except gay marriage.

So... the only thing MEQ has to support uniformly is gay marriage, but it can't do this in a vacuum; it WILL be supporting other positions by association within a candidate's platform. As stated above, though, ideally these other positions will cancel out. Therefore, the only problem with the headline in question is that it implies "MassEquality [only] supports the war!"

[Side note: Frankly, I think MEQ's presence at a peace rally sends the disturbingly mixed message that the organization DOES have some official position relating to foreign policy, in which case it SHOULD be open to attack regarding those issues. The organization's decision to attend such an event completely undermines the above argument and lies far outside the realm any of MEQ's explicit goals, which must make supporters wonder what other non-explicit agendas the organization is also supporting.]

Mark D. Snyder said...

Candidates do not always cancel each other out as you suggest. Sometimes candidates are tie breakers! You say you can't imagine that MEQ woudl endorse a bigott, just look at the language Mr. Howitt uses to describe immigrants. MEQ DID endorse a racist.

HRC for example endorsed Joe Leiberman who voted to stop all debate on the Iraq war, and who does not support gay marriage. They could have endorsed Ned Lamont, but for them electing an incumbent was more important.

This is how single issue politics plays into the system that continues dividing us all. It's frustrating no?

Megan said...

Response: Its a normal reaction to be offended when one is confronted with a critique of their intentions in making an argument. I apologize for any hurt feelings.

Absolutely, I think that your defense of MEQ's ambiguous stance is closely related to your commitment to their core mission. Your a priori judgment of MEQ is certainly why you sought employment, but it does not preclude further judgments based on your employment or even, simply your affiliation. I would say the same if you were a dedicated volunteer. I don't think you can make the case that your continuous belief in their strategies/mission is the sole cause for your defense.

There is a difference between desire for honesty and desire for integrity. In this example, the latter needs more attention. Let's be real, if you didn't sit where you do, you might not feel the need to defend them. I would certainly feel a kinship for my employer and my colleagues and would not want to see them mistreated personally. On a public and political level, no organization should not need your protection from damaging remarks. With respect and grace, dissent and difference of opinion enrich the life of any organization.

Anonymous said...

I hope the queer community can find it in themselves to get behind Rosie O'Donnell (married lesbian with children, out, proud and on a mainstream tv show-The View) as she calls for an investigation into the events of 9/11.

Bill O'Reilly has called for her to be fired, and right-wing nut Danny Bonaduce has called for her to be executed.

When they came for the truthers, did you speak out?

just look at this...

Being a Southern 'Bible-Belter" Republican, was
a hard pill for me to swallow corcerning 9-11. However, it really
does NOT take a genius to see holes in the official story that are quite literally HUGE enough to fly those planes through. I used to
be a fan of O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh, etc. Frankly I now view
them at best as "purfumed whores" at worst "accessories to the
crime itself"

A self-described bible-belt christian can support an outspoken lesbian? What could this possibly mean? It means that the times are a-changin', and it's not enough to be against the war. Get informed!!