Update: Domestic Partnership Benefits at Western Kentucky University

I first mentioned the issue here on Wednesday, when the news emerged that the Benefits committee declined to give their recommendation for Domestic Partnership benefits, yet again.

Today, the Bowling Green Daily News covered it.

Tony Glisson,  who is director of WKU Department of Human Resources and a member of the Benefits Committee, isn’t saying much about the decision, or how they got there. In fact, we don’t even know who all sits on the committee. The only members we know of are Glisson, and the appointees from the university senate, which totals three or four out of the fourteen people that sit on the committee.

“…I don’t understand the board’s decision,” said Skylar Baker-Jordan, now a senior. “And I don’t understand the secrecy around the decision. The board has not at all been forthcoming about their reasons and what they have said does not hold water because U of L and UK have both done this successfully.”

Secrecy at a public institution on issues and decisions like this are shady. Committees like this are supposed to keep minutes, that is, a record. But searching Western’s website reveals nothing–the committee has no page, nor minutes posted anywhere on Western’s web site. The closest you get is mentions of the committee on University Senate minutes, which are only easily found through the search box.

Glisson claims that the committee’s decision is based off of the amendment in Kentucky’s Constitution that bans gay marriage. However, the University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, and the University of Louisville all offer domestic partnership benefits to their employees.

Dr. Patti Minter, a history professor, and an amazing woman, said:

“I’m a longtime advocate of equal rights for all people and equal treatment for all,” Minter said. “I hope that the university will implement domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples in consideration with the attorney general’s opinion as UK, Northern Kentucky and the U of L have done. This is not something that is out of keeping with practice in Kentucky and at other universities here and other benchmark institutions in other states. Equal rights for all in no way detracts from the rights of others. If we do not have equal rights for all, then none of us are free.”

Contact Tony Glisson and let him know you disagree with the committee’s decision. Or call him at this number: 270-745-5360

Also, because it is always great to hear from supporters, contact Dr. Minter here and let her know that you appreciate her vocal and enthusiastic support.

Lastly, if you’ve got time to spare, comment on the Daily News article expressing your support for domestic partner benefits. The Daily News requires you to register first, so put this last on the list if you’re short on time. Any public, vocal support helps!

Taxes: Why I Don’t Mind Paying Them.

It seems like everyone has something to complain about in regards to taxes. It’s a pain to pay them, we shouldn’t have to, my tax refund isn’t big enough, etc etc etc.

I don’t mind paying taxes–no, really. Look at everything local, state, and the national government does with our tax money.

My taxes allow the government to allow me to take out loans to pay for my schooling; something no bank would do-give thousands of dollars to a seventeen year old woman? Pshh, silliness! The government banks on the idea that higher education will increase my productivity to society, and thus, my ability to pay them back. The bank loans solely on my ability to pay them back, with a lot of interest.

My taxes allow the government to fund food stamps. Mere dollars are taken out of my paycheck, and cents on the dollar out of my purchases , and I’m helping to feed thousands of people.

Iroquois Park, in Louisville, KY, gives residents a place to hike, bike, play, and enjoy Mother Nature. All paid for by our tax dollars.

My taxes pay for roads, for the government to oversee and regulate public services, our services members: students, active, and retired.

In paying my taxes, I’m giving back to a society that gives to me. I have clean air, relatively cheap tuition, roads and sidewalks to use, police to keep me safe, EMS to come to my rescue when I have a[nother] seizure in public, and many other things that I’m probably taking for granted.

It’s easy to take for granted the things that taxes pay for when we’ve never lived a life without them.

Stop and think for a minute–could we live the same lives if we kept our tax money and had nothing that those taxes pay for? No. We function as a community, a society. We live a life of relative comfort because of this. We are individuals, but we function as part of a group. I take care of me and mine, plus a whole lot of others, too, by paying taxes.

As a community, we can’t decide who to help, who deserves to benefit from the things taxes give us, or who should pay more or less depending on some arbitrary judgment of “goodness” or “worthiness.” Our neighborhoods are communities which are part of the city’s community, which is part of the state’s community, which is part of the nation’s community. Each individual is one of many, and unless we pool our resources, very few of us will succeed. Very few. Those who currently do not need “help” cannot stand in judgment of those who do. We have pooled our resources for a reason–because we are all equal. We are all equal, we are different, but the same, and we are part of the same community.

We think a lot about how taxes hurt; but how do they help?

The Fight for Domestic Partnership Benefits at Western Kentucky University

Skylar Jordan, a good friend of mine, has been trying to pressure the Benefits Committee of Western Kentucky University to add domestic partners to the list of those family members that share the benefits of Western’s employees.

He first brought it up last year in our Student Government Association, who passed a resolution supporting domestic partnership benefits. Next it came up at University Senate, where we also got a resolution passed supporting DPB.

But the Benefits Committee ignored both faculty and students, and voted against it. Skylar wrote his response, published on his blog, as well as in the student newspaper. He laid out a very eloquent argument; check it out here.

Take Over the Hash Tag!

Twitter is becoming more and more a way to make a statement. CNN and political commentators are even putting people’s relevant tweets on the air while discussing certain topics. I knew nothing of this potential when I joined Twitter–I joined so I could update my facebook status from my phone, so I could keep my friends and family updated while I was studying abroad last semester.

Some of the trending topics and hash tags are silly, often discussing celebrities or the latest television show. But often, they comment on news pieces, politics, and subjects relevant to feminism.

I noticed a hash tag on a friend’s twitter just now that I found interesting:
#its2010whyareyoustill

I used it to comment on Utah’s legislation that would criminalize a woman for miscarrying, but there’s a lot of feminist potential for this tag–how about it, fellow Tweeters? How about we hijack this hash tag to get a feminist message out?

Do it once, do it twice, do it all day!

Post on twitter a feminist ideal or goal we’d have thought might not be an issue by now.

For you non-tweeters, a mini-tutorial:
Read more of this post

To Speak and be Listened to

In my undergraduate career, I’ve grown used to people listening to me. When I want to jump in a discussion, whether it be in the classroom, the front stoop, or the coffee shop, I do. And people listen. After all, it is a discussion, not a pulpit+auditorium. If you disagree, you disagree. You can bring up articles and studies, personal experiences, and history, and discuss finer points. Often the subject moves in a different direction. Often, one or more of the discussants learns something new, which is good. That’s what we’re all here for.

Then, I go home (or leave campus in general). And every time, I forget that my younger brother doesn’t want to discuss. He wants to share his opinion. Often, he is wrong. Or sexist. Or racist. Or homophobic. My brother is a privileged, cis, straight, white male. Unfortunately, it is one of those privileged members that lives with blinders on. He doesn’t see how the world that he lives in is not the same for those different for him.

It’s frustrating dealing with my brother. I have to learn, and relearn, like other privileged people, my brother is going to view my attempts to discuss the ways his physical characteristics benefit him in society are going to put him on the defensive. He’s going to shut out my voice, his eyes are going to glaze over, and he’s going to eject as soon as possible.

I also have to learn and relearn that I’m also privileged. I’m able to take out loans to pay for my education, and I have enough self-confidence to speak up in class, and in random conversations. I have the privilege of, in most ways, of being visible by most of society, and have many of those same physical characteristics that society has taught gives me the right to speak up when I feel the urge to speak.

Of course, it doesn’t help when my brother is pushing my buttons, but when I cool down, it’s something I try to keep in mind. Especially when I’m listening to other people’s conversations I’m tempted to jump in on.

Women Are Boys’ Toys

This is probably going to be the first part of an ongoing series, because there are so many ways that women are used, spoken about, and advertised as toys that one post is not going to suffice. Today I want write about a very specific instance in which women are treated as toys by men.

Intimate relationships are a complicated thing to navigate. We have an entire fictional genre devoted to it, relationship self-help books have a huge market, movie producers make millions using the same basic storyline in dozens of different films, and we spend our entire lives trying to figure intimate relationships out, and how to get in the Perfect Relationship™.

Being human, we want the people we care about to be happy. Being involved in an intimate relationship is one of the many meaningful things someone can do, and when someone we care about is not in a relationship, we often find ourselves trying to set them up with someone they might like. And this is fine, provided it is done in a respectful manner, and with the consent of all parties, at every step of the way.

Respect.

Consent.

These two concepts are the very basis of all human relationships. Without both, no relationship, casual or intimate, can be meaningful or healthy.

Often, men will talk about the woman one has had an intimate relationship with, but for some reason is no longer with. Sometimes, a friend will express interest. This is fine. Here is the problem:

When the man gives permission, and they set about manipulating the woman or the circumstances in order to set up The Friend with The Man’s (former) Woman, who Owns Her For All Time, Since He Has Possessed Her Once.

This kind of thing completely ignores the woman, except in the context of Something to be Had. In 2010, it is assumed we’ve come ‘so far’ but in reality, we haven’t made it as far as others would like us to believe. We haven’t come as far as we’re told when a woman’s desires, consent, or personal agency as an individual human being is ignored.

Framing it as a friend’s consideration for the man’s feelings, again, ignores the woman. It’s hard to get men, who have never been treated as objects or property in any meaningful way, to understand this. They object, “But why would consideration for a friend ever be wrong?”

It is wrong because we’re talking about a woman. We’re not talking about the man here, the ex, the friend, the brother.

I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be difficult for an ex to see their former partner with someone close to them. I’ve been there, and done that. However, that’s between the two former partners. Depending, DEPENDING, on the degree of intimacy between the two former partners, it might be inconsiderate for one party to date a close friend, or sibling of their ex. It absolutely does not mean that anyone has to ask anyone permission for anything. Again, depending on the circumstances, it might be considerate for someone to give their ex a heads-up, but certainly not obligated to, though it is somewhat of a social rule.

One thing that I want to emphasize here is that it also completely ignores the feelings of the woman involved, in two ways. The most significant is her feeling about discovering she’s been spoken about in such a way. I’ve recently experienced this, and let me say, it was horrible. It was demeaning, embarrassing; I felt literally like a toy to be tossed around between buddies. I felt disrespected. I WAS disrespected. And that pissed me off. After living as a woman for 21 years, I expected as much from strangers (though I’ll say it doesn’t make it any less troublesome or disrespectful), but I expected more from people I cared about. I expected more from my former partner. I expected more from a friend of mine. They should, as people that are as close to me as these two men are, respect me more than their words implied. I don’t deserve to be treated like that. No woman deserves to be treated like that.

The second way in which a woman’s feelings are ignored in this situation is much less complicated: What if the woman has no interest in ‘the friend’? Asking permission of a former partner for a woman, ignores who she may or may not be interested in. Persisting, doing it anyway, sends a message that, hey, they don’t care what the woman wants. Friend wants her, Ex says “you can have her” and that’s that. The decision is made, no female input necessary. Or allowed. It sounds eerily familiar. Like, oh, I don’t know, arranged marriages? With “women’s liberation” being part of the justification for the continued war in Afghanistan, the hypocrisy of this practice astounds me. We’ll condemn forced/arranged marriages all the day long, but we socially ignore women’s autonomy every day. Just because it isn’t enshrined in law doesn’t mean everything is all better.

Here’s where women’s feelings, concerns, and anger are again ignored: we’re told we’re overreacting. To those who throw the ‘O’ word at women, I would say, stop, think carefully, put these same actions in a different context, and see if you don’t see any problem with it still.

To be or not to be: A Princess or an Equal?

While scarfing down some breakfast in between classes this morning, I read this post at Gender Across Borders. For the link-phobes, it talks about the issue of feminist relationships, and the difficulties navigating an equal relationship. In the comments I noticed a common theme popping up, that tends to pop up in these sorts of conversations. If certain commenters are to be believed, ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement:

Ladies, you can either be a princess, or you can have a completely equal relationship with your partner.

Gentlemen: you can either treat your significant other to dinner, hold doors open for them, or, treat them like your dudebro friends.

Got that?

Because feminism, apparently, has just ruined dating rituals and “chivalry.”

It’s a zero-sum game-either guys can do nice things for the women they are dating, or they can treat them as full equal beings in an equal relationship.

Notice how this idea completely leaves out LGBTQI partnerships. Unless you say that only one person in a relationship can be a “princess.” But that leaves out the assumptions about gender roles and expected gendered behavior in these relationships.

Also take notice of how this idea does not address women’s sweet-nothings for their partner. It assumes that women either “do” nothing for their partners (except put out, but that doesn’t count, of course!), or, it assumes that in an equal relationship, women continue to “do” the things they do (are expected to do? like to do?) while men no longer need to “do” anything.

**note: What I mean by the things men and women “do” in relationship is just those little things that people do for the person that care about. Not necessarily purchase-related things, note that door-holding is one of the Big Examples are used in this conversation. Money isn’t, or rather, shouldn’t be important in a relationship. But showing your affection and appreciation for your partner does help to make a healthy, solid relationship, and is what I’m referring to here.

I feel like I’m pointing out the obvious, but you do not have to choose between having an ‘equal’ relationship or showing affection/sweet nothings/showing common courtesy for your partner. This is not a zero sum game.

What does an equal partnership mean, if one or both parties refuse to do things for one another?

Along the course of this “debate” the meaning of equal seems to have been lost, or rather, co-opted by those that do not wish to put forth effort in a relationship, yet reap the benefits. If the actual definition of an ‘equal relationship’ were used, we would not be having this conversation. In an equal relationship, you do not keep a tally of who does what for whom. In an equal relationship, you do not “owe” your partner for them having done something nice for you. An equal relationship does not mean that you trade action for action, gift for gift, or favor for favor. In an equal relationships, gifts and favors are given freely, not with strings.

Relationships featuring gifts with strings is an unequal relationship–the old fashioned dressed up and garnished with a pretty title: “He Treats You Like a Princess.”