Joss Whedon and the Theater of Allyship

Dear Joel,

Joss Whedon took a risk that reeks of male entitlement: to claim feminism but not give up his abusive behavior toward women. Maybe he’s a faux-feminist or a woke misogynist. Maybe he’s a liar who wanted to cash in on feminism. Maybe he can’t make the connection between the political and the personal. Maybe he’s doing what more feminist-identifying men would do if they were given the opportunity. The fact that he decided to speak like a feminist and act like a dirtbag suggests to me that he wanted the benefits of both—for him to be celebrated by women and also for him to have power over them. Like lots of men, he sees the advantages that feminism has for him, but he doesn’t want to give up the perks of sexism. It’s rather nice to have the tools of sexism—firing women for getting pregnant, marital infidelity—in your toolbox, just in case you might want to use them one day.

Perhaps this is why so many good men, men who are, in practical ways, feminists, don’t embrace the term. Once you declare yourself a feminist, you have to live up to it. You secretly want to reserve your right to be a misogynist, just in case your wife asks you to do something really uncomfortable, like organize your family around her career trajectory or keep her own last name or just address the f@&*! Christmas cards this year. Better to be a misogynist than a hypocrite, seems to be the logic.

Of course, you don’t have to be either. You can be a consistently good man, which is to say, a man who consistently challenges male privilege and works to insure equitable treatment for those who are not men. You don’t have to be a perfect man, but you do have to be a man doing better and being better than he was before. This is what good people want in all areas of their lives—that their “love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Becoming a better advocate for those who are vulnerable, including women, is part of that growth.

Sometimes, it’s easy to see misogyny and fight against it. Don’t cheat on your wife. Treat domestic violence like the crime that it is. Don’t laugh at sexist jokes. Intervene in sexual violence against women.

And, sometimes, men still have a lot to learn and, even harder, believe: about the wage gap, about the mental load, about emotional labor, about why putting your dishes IN the dishwasher or your clothes IN the hamper is a requirement for leveling up in feminism. (Many feminist men seem to struggle with prepositions. If there is a Bloom’s taxonomy for feminism, mastering the difference between in and next to is toward the top. I’m not making an easy joke about that, either. Recognizing inequality in the household workload is harder for most men, I think, than is seeing inequality elsewhere.)

In feminism, as in loading the dishwasher or diapering an infant, it’s not okay to throw up your hands and say, “I’ll never do it well enough to please you, so I’m just going to stop trying!” You have to keep trying, recognizing (as with the dishwasher or the baby) that there are a million ways to do this right and a few big ways to do it wrong and that, as an adult, you have to do it one of the right ways. And it’s not your wife’s job to teach you how—it was your father’s.

We can’t escape the culture we live in, including its sexism. But we can, over time, change it so that the sexist behaviors men today accept as the norm about will be ones that the men of the future can’t even fathom.

Image result for men who change diapers change the world

Above, a bumper sticker declares that “Men who change diapers change the world.” True, but I’m fairly sure that my children wouldn’t understand that, once upon a time, men needed to be celebrated for providing for the basic needs of a person they are, you know, responsible for. Just one way that I think the future is going to be different. 

Glad we are doing it together,


Keep White Supremacists on the Run

Dear Joel,

I have bad news, good news, and better news.

The bad news: ACT for America is an anti-Muslim group with a worrisome number of victories that have a real impact on Muslim Americans, Muslim immigrants, and those who would welcome them as our neighbors. The group claims 750,000 members and chapters all across the country, though those numbers may be unreliable, given the organization’s history of exaggerating its number of chapters. It also takes credit for a dozen federal and even more state-level bills aimed to curtailing immigration, “securing” the border, and outlawing “sharia law,” a bogeyman they use to scare up support for anti-Muslim policies. The organization, which bills itself as an “grassroots” national security non-profit, organized a multi-city “March Against Sharia” event this past June. ACT for America operates as if its main concerns are women’s rights (which is just a way to gin up outrage at Muslim-majority nations, not an actual effort to protect women’s rights any way that might offend the many conservative Christians who participate in this group), “standing with Israel” (also a direct appeal to conservative Christians and Jewish people), and national security (that is, anti-immigration).

Leaders in ACT for America might pretend to be nice, respectable citizens (In Jonesboro, Arkansas, where the local chapter is quite active, many members are current or retired pastors and lawyers. A prominent local Tea Party politician is also a member.), but they are part of an organization with explicitly racist and violent views. Just one example: the June rally in Arkansas was led by Billy Roper, a former history teacher and one of Arkansas’ more ambitious white supremacists.

In other words, you don’t have to dig very deep beneath ACT for America’s veneer of respectability (Folks who attend conservative churches: See if your church is getting propaganda from this group, please.) to find white supremacists calling for genocide against non-whites of any religion.

Embolded by the Trump administration’s anti-Muslim policies, they’d planned nationwide rallies for September 9.

The good news: The rallies got cancelled. Or, rather, moved to online rallies. The only sad part about this is that it’s always good to see just who in your community would show up to protest the settlement of war refugees in your town so you can be sure to boycott their business.

The better news: They bailed because they saw the counterprotest in Boston. They saw how pathetic the 50-100 white supremacists looked against 15,000K people who won’t accept hate–and they saw that white people, in particular, won’t stand for it. In their comments in Breithbart (No, I’m not linking to it), ACT for America, like their white supremacists president, put neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and other white supremacists in the same category as antifascist protestors and said that, by golly, things were just too dangerous–even though the Boston counter protests were remarkably peaceful. But don’t let them lie to you: they aren’t afraid of neo-Nazis and defenders of slavery. They put those folks to work leading the organization! They are afraid of the humiliation of counter protest.

Counterprotests work. For folks wondering if we shouldn’t just ignore protestors, if depriving them of an audience would shut them up–nope.

I’ve shared this story elsewhere, but it’s worth retelling. I learned it from working in hate studies for years now. It comes from insights from a former hate group recruiter who shared it.

You want to recruit in a town. You go in and do a little damage–paint a swastika on the synagogue, for example. If, the next day, the only people cleaning it up are the Jews in town, you stay and recruit. If, the next day, the whole town is there–more people than you can count, more people than could ever be useful in cleaning it up, and they are of every faith and they are happy to be pulling together and they are loud in their proclamation that this won’t stand in their town… then you move on. There’s no reason wasting your time there. 

This is how we have to treat hate. We keep it running. When a flyer goes it, you take it down–loudly and repeatedly. When ACT for America makes a reservation for a meeting at a local restaurant, you start a boycott of the restaurant until they deny the group meeting space. When the campus Republican club invites a speaker with ties to white supremacy to campus, you fill up every parking space on campus and the five surrounding blocks hours in advance, and you meet them with on the sidewalk with signs and sousaphones and professional clowns and whatever else the spirit moves you to greet them with–but you let them know that you are watching them and that you are collecting their license plates numbers and calling their bosses to let them know that white supremacists work there and that you’ll be sharing this information on the company’s Yelp page. Call their mama and their grandma too. Make them understand that hate won’t take root on your watch. They’d best just move along.

It works.


USPROTESTSFREESPEECH_1Above, a photo from the Boston counter protest to white supremacy this past week. A counterprotestor stands behind a sign that says “Keep Your Country Nice and Clean” and includes an image of a figure tossing a swastika into the garbage can. 

Elijah Parrish Lovejoy, Heather Heyer, and the white fight against racism

Dear Joel,

Has some defender of the Lost Cause told you yet this week that you need to “learn your history”? (I know, it’s only Sunday, but I’ve already wracked up a few!) I find that retort to be especially vexing because those who toss it out generally don’t respect the intellectual work of historians. Most often, they’re not going to be convinced by history, and they don’t value learning.

But I’ll meet them partway and offer a brief history lesson:

I’ve heard that Elijah Parrish Lovejoy was the first white man killed in defense of freedom for enslaved African Americans. I don’t know if that is true, but he was clearly one of the first. He was killed in 1837–nearly 30 years before the Civil War broke out–when a pro-slavery mob came to set his newspaper press on fire. His abolitionist newspaper had been attacked three times when it was located in Missouri, a slave state, so he’d move across the river, to the free state of Illinois, to continue his work.

He was a Princeton-trained theologian and a Presbyterian pastor. He knew that slavery was wrong, and he fought against it using the liberty granted to him by the First Amendment. He was killed in that endeavor.

Lovejoy is a hero, the kind of person, like Heather Heyer, who put his life on the line to fight injustice.

We honor Lovejoy with a monument in Albon, Illinois, where he was shot and killed.

I hope this year sees a rush to honor more people like Lovejoy and Heyer, like Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner and others who resisted white supremacy and slavery.

Image result for lovejoy monument

Above, the Lovejoy Monument, honoring a true Civil War hero.

Want to visit a Confederate War Memorial?

Dear Joel,

This past May, the Journal of Hate Studies released a special issue, Heritage and Hate. I was the editor on the issue, which included articles on the Confederate flag, remembering slavery in museums in the American South, and what to do with memorials that honor white supremacists (in Zimbabwe, not the US). The authors were incredibly patient as we put together this issue and got it in the hands of readers. (Most readers will have to be a little more patient. The issue is in the hands of subscribers and libraries, but the digital copy isn’t online yet. When it is, though, you can read it for free. In the meantime, if anyone wants a copy of any of the articles (Here’s the Table of Contents.), just let me know and I’ll happily send you a PDF.)

So, this issue of how we navigate Confederate memorials–I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now.

There is no defense of such monuments. We know that most of them were put up not to honor Civil War veterans but to reinforce white supremacy during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Era. Some have been put even more recently. Claims that “this is history” were naive last week; this week, they are offensive. If only it were history! But it’s not–the statues are about maintaining the right of whites to terrorize blacks, through slavery and the violence of Reconstruction, through legalized segregation,  through imprisonment, through marches of white men carrying torches.

None of those honored are heroes. All of them led a revolt against the United States, one not rooted in freedom but in defense of white supremacy, of the right of white people to own blacks, and of an economic system that relied on the oppression of human beings. This is the “Southern heritage” that those men fought to defend, and it is shameful.

Monuments are not about history. They are about stories. These monuments are about the story of the Lost Cause and about the goodness of men who were evil. They don’t deserve to stand.

Citizens should not have to take these matters into their own hands. They should not have to look at their tax money being used to honor men who were willing to kill for white supremacy.  We don’t need a public dialogue to discuss whether these men should be honored. Honoring them dishonors us. Honoring them is an act of violence to real people, right now, today.

Can we look to our elected leaders to remove them? In some places, yes, thank God.

What should those leaders do with the monuments? Dump them into the sea, where they cannot be reclaimed or turned into profit for white supremacists. We have a precedent for doing this with the bodies of those who commit mass violence and genocide.

But what about–

No, I do not care about them. Not when we have never paid the descendants of slaves for what they lost: lives, opportunities, justice. We don’t spend taxpayer money honoring men who took us into war while we say that we just can’t figure out how to to do right by  the people they enslaved.

Let those who want Confederate soldiers honored do it on their own dime, on their own land. Private citizens are free to erect monuments to white supremacists on their own. If “heritage not hate” folks want to see them, I can direct them to white supremacists training grounds.

And if “heritage not hate” tourists find the idea of hanging out with folks who are training for a racial war, planning attacks on the US government, and laughing at racial terrorism a little bit distasteful… Well, I’m not sure what to tell you. Today’s white supremacist militias are just doing what your heroes did.

A group of men walking in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017 (Photo provided by the Office of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe)

Above, white supremacists aren’t all polo shirt wearing college students upset about Fisher v. University of Texas. They’re also heavily armed racists itching for a racial war that will end with a white ethno state. Their major criticism of slavery is that it brought Africans to this continent. Basically, Confederate war heroes. 




Misogyny as a Precursor to Mass Violence… Again

Hi Joel,


I must sound like a broken record, but have pity on me–if you are tired of hearing it, imagine how tired women are of saying it.

Men who commit mass violence–and being a young man is characteristic that most mass violence actors have in common–are almost always domestic abusers first. Hate crimes begin at home, and the crime of wife beating is a misogynistic crime. It is rooted in the same toxic masculinity as other kinds of violence, fed by entitlement., grudge holding, and a wounded sense of honor.

James Alex Fields, Jr. is why we need a national domestic violence registry.

Image result for james alex fields car

Above, the murder weapon–a car–that Fields used. 

Prior to his murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer and his terrorist attack that harmed 19 others, Fields’ violence toward his mother prompted her to call 911 repeatedly to seek police intervention to protect her from him.

Most domestic abusers do not go on to mow strangers down with their cars. And most people who are planning acts of mass violence aren’t dissuaded from doing so because their names appear in a registry.

But a registry would allow us to keep better track of convicted offenders (who, obviously, do not represent all or perhaps even most of those who commit such acts) and allow us to move more quickly to intervene, including through gun restraining orders.  


Support your Local Nazi Hunter

Dear Joel,

Can’t bring yourself to slug a Nazi?

If you want to get out of the tension between worrying about antifa’s tactics, do your part to support the fight against fascism. You already know what it is.

Work on justice, and antics will recede–at least until we drift near fascism again.



antif flag burning

Above, an antifascist activist burns a “Thin Blue Line” flag. If this upsets you, think about what it means that some officers and their Blue Lives Matter supporters have their own flag, which desecrates the US flag according to the US flag code. Oh, and that thin blue line in the image–it represents the police officers who stand between us and anarchy. Feeling a little worried yet about police authoritarianism? 

“Daughters for Life” to meet in DC

I encourage our readers in the Washington, DC area to attend an upcoming event that supports peacemaking co-sponsered by Daughters for Life and Eastern Mennonite University’s  Center for Justice and Peacebuilding

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 10.55.55 AM.png

Daughters for Life was founded by Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose daughters, Bessan, 21, Mayar, 15, and Aya, 13, were killed when Israeli tanks shelled his family’s home in Gaza in 2009.  In 2011, an interview with Dr. Abuelaish appeared in the Journal for Hate Studies. In his interview (which you can find here: 157-483-1-PB), Dr. Abuelaish speaks about how we have hope in the face of tragedy and how we inculcate children against hate.

Image resultAbove, the cover of I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity shows daughters Bessan, Mayar, and Aya tracing their names in the sand on a beach. 

The organization that he founded after this violence focuses on empowering girls and young women from Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria by awarding them scholarships to study in Canada, the UK, and the US.

On September 16th, Daughters for Life and EMU are hosting a dinner honoring women working in peace building: Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, Peabody Award-winning social entrepreneur and media producer Ronit Avni, and the executive director of Just Vision, Suhad Babaa. Tickets are available to support this work and celebrate these women.