Quotulatiousness

April 15, 2014

Finland to issue “Tom of Finland” erotic postage stamps

Filed under: Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:02

Unlike other Scandinavian countries, Finland isn’t noted as a trend-setter in LGBT issues: still not allowing same-sex marriage even though homosexuality was legalized in 1971. Finland also classified transvestism as an illness until 2011. Knowing that, it’s hard to credit that Itella Posti, the Finnish postal service, will be selling these stamps beginning in September.

From their English-language website:

Finland issues Tom of Finland stampsIn September-October 2014, Itella Posti will release seven new sets of stamps, containing a total of 33 new designs. It is a great collection to choose from; the subjects of the new stamps include male drawings by Tom of Finland, autumnal yard and garden scenes painted by Urpo Martikainen, and Jaakko Tähti’s photos of Finnish bridges. Other subjects for the end-of-the-year stamps include signs of sky and the change in everyday Finland — and, of course, Christmas.

The autumn’s stamp series begins September 8 with Tom of Finland, who is considered one of the most well-known Finnish artists around the world. His emphatically masculine homoerotic drawings have attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on, for instance, pop culture and fashion. In his works, Tom of Finland utilized the self-irony and humor typical of subcultures.

During his career, Tom of Finland produced more than 3,500 drawings. The two drawings on the stamp sheet were selected by graphic artist Timo Berry, who designed the stamp, and Susanna Luoto, the Finnish representative of the foundation named after Tom of Finland operating in Los Angeles.

The drawings on the stamp sheet represent strong and confident male figures typical of their designer. “The sheet portrays a sensual life force and being proud of oneself. There is never too much of that in this northern country,” says Timo Berry. The miniature sheet contains three 1st class self-adhesive stamps.

The artist behind Tom of Finland was Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), whose profile is extended in the exhibition Sealed with a Secret – Correspondence of Tom of Finland opening in the Postal Museum September 6. The exhibition will display the busy correspondence of Laaksonen from the early 1940s to his dying year, 1991. The exhibition will be displayed until March 29, 2015, in Museum Centre Vapriikki in the new Postal Museum to be opened in Tampere in September.

April 8, 2014

QotD: Making certain arguments “beyond the pale”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

The right to free speech may begin and end with the First Amendment, but there is a vast middle where our freedom of speech is protected by us — by our capacity to listen and accept that people disagree, often strongly, that there are fools, some of them columnists and elected officials and, yes, even reality-show patriarchs, that there are people who believe stupid, irrational, hateful things about other people and it’s okay to let those words in our ears sometimes without rolling out the guillotines.

[...]

The trouble, I think, is when ostracizing a viewpoint as “beyond the pale” becomes not an end but a means to an end; that by declaring something unsayable, we make it so. It makes me uncomfortable, even as I see the value of it. I for one would love homophobia to fully make it on that list, to get to the point where being against gay marriage is as vulgar and shameful as being against interracial marriage. But it isn’t. Maybe it will be. But it isn’t. And kicking a reality-show star off his reality show doesn’t make that less true. Win the argument; don’t declare the argument too offensive to be won. And that’s true whether it’s GLAAD making demands of A&E or the head of the Republican National Committee making demands of MSNBC.

The bottom line is, you don’t beat an idea by beating a person. You beat an idea by beating an idea. Not only is it counter-productive — nobody likes the kid who complains to the teacher even when the kid is right — it replaces a competition of arguments with a competition to delegitimize arguments. And what’s left is the pressure to sand down the corners of your speech while looking for the rough edges in the speech of your adversaries. Everyone is offended. Everyone is offensive. Nothing is close to the line because close to the line is over the line because over the line is better for clicks and retweets and fundraising and ad revenue.

Jon Lovett, “The Culture of Shut Up: Too many debates about important issues degenerate into manufactured and misplaced outrage — and it’s chilling free speech”, The Atlantic, 2014-04-07

April 4, 2014

“Why do these bigots still have jobs? Let’s go get them”

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:45

In Slate, Will Saletan digs through the data to find the next set of targets:

Some of my colleagues are celebrating. They call Eich a bigot who got what he deserved. I agree. But let’s not stop here. If we’re serious about enforcing the new standard, thousands of other employees who donated to the same anti-gay ballot measure must be punished.

More than 35,000 people gave money to the campaign for Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that declared, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” You can download the entire list, via the Los Angeles Times, as a compressed spreadsheet. (Click the link that says, “Download CSV.”) Each row lists the donor’s employer. If you organize the data by company, you can add up the total number of donors and dollars that came from people associated with that company.

The first thing you’ll notice, if you search for Eich, is that he’s the only Mozilla employee who gave to the campaign for Prop 8. His $1,000 was more than canceled out by three Mozilla employees who donated to the other side.

The next thing you’ll notice is that other companies, including other tech firms, substantially outscored Mozilla in pro-Prop 8 contributions attributed to their employees. That includes Adobe, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo, as well as Disney, DreamWorks, Gap, and Warner Bros.

Thirty-seven companies in the database are linked to more than 1,300 employees who gave nearly $1 million in combined contributions to the campaign for Prop 8. Twenty-five tech companies are linked to 435 employees who gave more than $300,000. Many of these employees gave $1,000 apiece, if not more. Some, like Eich, are probably senior executives.

Why do these bigots still have jobs? Let’s go get them.

Welcome to the church of SSM militant

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:20

A National Review editorial on the Mozilla CEO’s short tenure after being outed as a supporter of a Californian anti-SSM ballot initiative:

In 2008, Barack Obama and Brendan Eich both were against gay marriage. Senator Obama averred his support for the one-man/one-woman view of marriage, while Mr. Eich, a cofounder of the Mozilla web-browser company, donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8 — a California ballot initiative that had the effect of making Senator Obama’s avowed marriage policy the law in California, at least until a federal court overturned it on the theory that California’s constitution is unconstitutional. Barack Obama inexplicably remains, as of this writing, president of the United States of America, but Mr. Eich has just been forced out as CEO of Mozilla because of his political views.

The various tendencies that operate under the general heading of “gay rights” have had an extraordinary run of it in the past several years, in both the political and the cultural theaters. We now have a constitutional right to commit homosexual acts (Lawrence v. Texas), while Facebook offers at last count 56 different gender options to its users (trans with or without asterisk, genderqueer, neutrois, and two-spirit among them). Having won the battle in California, the sore winners are roaming the battlefield with bayonets and taking no prisoners. Mr. Eich’s donation had been a matter of public record for some years, but Eros is a jealous god, and he will have blood from time to time. Mr. Eich’s elevation to the chief executive’s position provided occasion for critics within his firm and without to make an example of him.

[...]

Again, it is in this case a matter of culture. The nation’s full-time gay-rights professionals simply will not rest until a homogeneous and stultifying monoculture is settled upon the land, and if that means deploying a ridiculous lynch mob to pronounce anathema upon a California technology executive for private views acted on in his private life, then so be it. The gay agenda of the moment is, ironically enough, to force nonconformists into the metaphorical closet. If through the miracle of modern medicine you end up with five sets of mixed genitals, you’ll get your own section in the California civil-rights statutes; cling to nearly universal views about marriage for a few months after it’s become unfashionable, and you’re an untouchable.

Unless, that is, you’re the anti-gay-marriage candidate that all the pro-gay-marriage people voted for in 2008, in which case you get a pass, apparently on the theory that everybody assumed you were being willfully dishonest for political reasons. (That assumption provides a relatively rare point of agreement between homosexual activists and the editors of this magazine.) There simply is to be no disagreement, no dissent, and no tolerance for other points of view.

Update: In Time, Nick Gillespie says there’s both good and bad aspects of this event.

Welcome to the brave new world of socially conscious… web-browsing. In the past, consumers might patronize certain businesses (Whole Foods, say, or Ben & Jerry’s) whose stated missions extended beyond increasing shareholder value and avoided others that might have politically objectionable CEOs or reputations for being anti-abortion (Domino’s Pizza, say) or public positions opposed to certain forms of birth control (Hobby Lobby, for instance). Now we’re boycotting free products such as Firefox and demanding companies dance to the tune called by customers. I think that’s a good thing overall — but it may end up being just as difficult for consumers to live with as it will be for corporations.

Whether you care about gay marriage or politically correct web experiences, Eich’s resignation shows how businesses respond to market signals. “Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech,” writes Mitchell Baker, the organization’s executive chairwoman, in announcing Eich’s stepping down. “And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.”

Just as the Internet has empowered consumers to find cheaper prices, more-extensive reviews, and a wider variety of goods than ever before, it’s also made it easier for them to call out companies for all sorts of dastardly actions, screw-ups, and problems. I like that OKCupid’s intervention wasn’t a call for government action to limit people’s choices or ban something. Indeed, OKCupid didn’t even block Firefox users from its site — rather, it politely asked them to consider getting to the site via a different browser.

March 25, 2014

Understatement of the day: “dumb things happen when you’ve been drinking”

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:10

It’s hard to guess just which parts of his little violent criminal spree might be downgraded to mere “dumb things”:

Cpl. Jonathan Laporte shot up his own home and two of his neighbours’ cars before arming himself with a shotgun and handgun and blasting his way through the showroom of a high-end car dealership on Feb. 9, 2011.

The rampage came less than an hour after he was charged and released by police for physically assaulting three men at a Hunt Club Road hotel.

The 25-year-old soldier had met a man at the Days Inn after replying to an online ad for consensual, “no strings attached” gay sex. But the encounter turned violent after Laporte became heavily intoxicated and grabbed his partner by the neck and started squeezing after warning the man not to tell anyone about their hook-up.

The man eventually escaped wearing nothing more than his underwear and a T-shirt, but returned to the room to recover his wallet and cellphone. Once inside, Laporte closed the door and resumed the attack, punching the man repeatedly in the face as he screamed for help.

March 19, 2014

Alex Marwood: “Fred Phelps might finally be teaching us a lesson”

Filed under: Media, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:45

Alex Marwood contemplates the actual lessons to be drawn from the impending death of the head (former head?) of the flamboyantly repellant Westboro Baptist Church:

But here’s the thing that might indeed deserve celebrating: I think that, in his final hours, Fred Phelps might finally be teaching us a lesson. And it’s not the lesson that his spittle-bowed ranting, his family’s laughable adaptations of pop songs and psychotic banner-waving have been intended to teach us. For years now, I’ve looked at Westboro and wanted to ask them about their take on the Seven Deadly Sins. The old man and his numerous offspring seemed, you see, to base their style upon them. Wrath he had, in plenty — but Phelps also seem to be driven as much by envy (of the “fags” who were getting preferential enabling), a prideful self-belief only challenged by that of L Ron Hubbard, greed, as demonstrated in all those juicy court settlements from local councils who sought to limit his ‘freedom of speech’ and, well, frankly, quite a bit of sloth, sitting about in his compound sending the grandkids out to demonstrate. As to gluttony and lust — well, no one really knows what went on behind the walls of that compound when Louis Theroux wasn’t filming, but the guy has 13 kids and a bit of a paunch, which suggests a degree of busyness, to say the least. And here he is, at the end of his life, alone, unmourned and, as many people believe, anyway, probably going to hell.

So thank you, Fred. You’ve taught us how not to live our lives. Actually, I would hazard that, if anything, Fred’s career has done gay rights a favour. For every sad-act who got themselves sucked in by them, there will be thousands upon thousands who will have thought “well, if that’s the face of the moral Right, I’m out,” and gone and shaken hands with their local homosexuals. In a land where the values of Christianity often seem to have been warped by the twin evils of psychopathically Right-wing Right-wingers and greed-fuelled fraudsters, Phelps picked up the ball, glued spikes on it and kicked it into the faces of small children and then sued them for getting in the way. He will have done more to turn people away from his brand of God than even Morris Cerullo. So thanks, Fred! If any of the kids are looking for an example of a Christian life, we now have a perfect example to show them, and say “the opposite of that, basically”. Well played, and flights of something sing thee to thy rest!

March 13, 2014

Feminist writer picks fight with the Trans* community

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:06

Julie Burchill is a British feminist who writes for the Guardian and the Spectator, and has had spats with the Trans* community before. Her most recent provocation was in the comments section of an article at Vice, where she got particularly cranky:

Burchill made the comments on a Vice Magazine column by prominent trans activist and journalist Paris Lees, in which she talked about catcalling, and questioned whether enjoying the attention of men in the street effectively made her a “bad feminist.”

The Sugar Rush writer said: “Paris, you like it because you ARE still a YOUNG GAY BOY. And that’s what YOUNG GAY BOYS LIKE! Bless!

“Paris, if you were a BORN WOMAN, bothered since the age of 12 by GROWN MEN, you wouldn’t find it fun. You’d find it boring, wearisome, wearing. When you’re a plain old trans, ten years from now, you’ll get a big old identity crisis on, if you rely on random lechery for self-esteem.

“I bet B*tch [Paris Lees] will come up with a ‘sexy reason’ for foot-binding next. [Female Genital Mutilation], even. Didn’t I hear that a ‘transwoman’ thought we Radical Feminists were fussing about too much about FGM? What price the genital mutilation of a 7 year old brown-skinned girl child when THE MOST IMPORANT THING IN THE WORLD is big white blokes having their cocks cut off on the NHS?

[...]

She went on: “No human who did not grow up as a girl can call themselves a woman. Any more than a white human can become a black human. Delude yourselves all you like, but in the way you lot harass born women, your bully boy side always shines through. And no amount of lipstick and plastic tits can cover that up.”

She deleted the comments and posted an apology, but clearly the damage had been done.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

February 28, 2014

Baked-in prejudice and freedom of religion

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:48

Jonah Goldberg assures us that he’s not against gay marriage, but that the Arizona baker’s case isn’t quite what it seems:

Speaking of unreasonableness, according to ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, if Arizona allows bakers to refuse to bake cakes for gay couples, gays may have to wear “yellow stars” like the Jews of Nazi Germany. It would be Jim Crow for gays according to, well, too many people to list.

Now lest you get the wrong impression, I am no opponent of gay marriage. I would have preferred a compromise on civil unions, but that ship sailed. The country, never mind the institution of marriage, has far bigger problems than gays settling down, filing joint tax returns, and arguing about whose turn it is to do the dishes. By my lights it’s progress that gay activists and left-wingers are celebrating the institution of marriage as essential. Though I do wish they’d say that more often about heterosexual marriage, too.

But I find the idea that government can force people to violate their conscience without a compelling reason repugnant. I agree with my friend, columnist Deroy Murdock. He thinks private businesses should be allowed to serve whomever they want. Must a gay baker make a cake for the hateful idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church? Must he write “God hates fags!” in the icing?

The ridiculous invocations of Jim Crow are utterly ahistorical, by the way. Jim Crow was state-enforced, and businesses that wanted to serve blacks could be prosecuted. Let the market work and the same social forces that have made homosexuality mainstream will make refusing service to gays a horrible business decision — particularly in the wedding industry!

February 26, 2014

Facebook‘s 58th gender and the (in)flexibility of language

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:04

Chrissie Daz discusses the rise of the “third gender” (should that be 58th?) and earlier attempts to make language conform to an idealized view of how life should be, as opposed to how it is:

The legal recognition [in passports and other legal documents] of intersex people and others who cannot properly be said to be either male or female is probably a good idea, but this should not impact upon the vast majority of people who have no problem living in a binary-gendered world or using binary-gendered language.

History is replete with failed attempts to re-invent or modify language, from Esperanto to the feminist PC language of the Eighties. But this campaign to institute a third sex in language and law may well prove to be the most unstable project yet. The ever-changing and ever-expanding taxonomy of words and identities aimed at respecting difference among transsexuals, always seems to cause undue offence among transsexuals themselves. To use the word transsexual, for instance, as a noun (rather than as an adjective) is said, by some, to diminish a person’s identity down to a single trait. The very term transsexual has been replaced, first by transgendered (to assert that fact that it is about gender not sexuality) and now by Trans*. The capital ‘T’ is obligatory and the asterisk is meant to represent inclusivity. Apparently, to simply call someone ‘Trans’ implicitly denigrates the experiences of cross-dressers and gender-queer folk who are not intent upon making a full transition from one gender to the other.

Amid all the offence being taken over these linguistic acrobatics, the one thing trans campaigners, and now Facebook, fail to realise is that language does not respond well to being artificially manipulated. As Wittgenstein once remarked, language is like a toolbox, you use the best tool available for the job in hand. With general use, over time, words and their meanings change to reflect changing forms of social consciousness. It is not the other way around. Any attempt to force language to respond to the presumed delicate sensitivities of marginal groups not only underlines and reifies these presumed vulnerabilities, it also undermines the responsiveness of language to real experience.

February 25, 2014

Freedom of belief and “administrative law” in Colorado

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:05

L. Neil Smith on a controversial case in Colorado:

In a story that recently made national news, a Colorado baker who, for reasons of Christian conscience, refused to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple, has been ordered by a Denver administrative law judge (and exactly what the hell is an “administrative law judge”, anyway?) to do so nonetheless — and make similar cakes for any other customers who request them — or face fines and possibly a stretch in prison.

He will file reports and be watched closely from now on.

I am not kidding.

The baker, who has said that he will disobey the order, is Jack C. Phillips, his bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop. The judge’s name is Robert Spencer. The gay couple are Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The lawsuit was brought on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Craig and Mullins originally filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Apparently Phillips had refused another such request, by a lesbian couple, some time ago, and, according to local talk show host Peter Boyles of 710KNUS, was deliberately targeted, or “shopped”, possibly by the judge, himself. Meanwhile, a Colorado Democratic legislator (whose name I can’t find) has just introduced legislation that would crank up the fine for this “offense” by 7000 percent.

In a specimen of logic so twisted it would make Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali vomit, Spencer has issued Phillips a “cease and desist” order — an official order to stop not doing something. It’s exactly like a moment out of a nightmare collaboration between Stalin and Kafka.

Clearly, Baker Phillips has a right, under the First Amendment — a right currently being denied him — to believe whatever he wishes, and to follow the precepts of his religion, as long as he doesn’t deny anybody else their rights. He also has a First Amendment right to freedom of speech, which necessarily includes the right not to speak, when that appears more eloquent, or to employ his artistic insights, intuitions, and skills in support of a cause that he personally finds obnoxious.

Certainly Craig and Mullins have their rights, as well, but they don’t include compelling Phillips or anybody else to work for them, or to pretend as if they agreed with their ideas and help trumpet them to the world. The fact is, there are dozens of other bakeries in Denver more than willing to do that. But, as we now know from Obamacare, everybody has to comply. They want to get this guy and get him good.

Lobbyist wants to ban gays from playing in the NFL

Filed under: Football, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:28

This is the sort of story that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1970s, but seems to have come adrift in the timestream and for some reason shows up today:

Just when it appeared that a supposedly modern, progressive society is willing to accept people for who they are and not force them to pretend to be something they’re not, someone is trying to kick the pendulum sharply in the other direction.

According to The Hill, lobbyist Jack Burkman said Monday that he’s preparing legislation that would ban gay players from the NFL.

“We are losing our decency as a nation,” Burkman said in a statement. “Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

One must assume that Burkman’s belief is, contra Chris Kluwe, sharing a shower room with a gay man will magically turn you into a “lustful cockmonster”.

February 21, 2014

Michael Sam and the NFL combine in Indianapolis

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:37

In USA Today, Tom Pelissero says that former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam will have to convince team representatives that he has the skills to play in the NFL, rather than how he might fit in as the only openly gay player in the locker room:

One of the largest crowds ever for a media session at the NFL scouting combine peppered Manti Te’o with 36 questions last year, almost all about a hoax involving the death of a girlfriend who didn’t exist.

The crowd for Missouri defensive end Michael Sam’s session Saturday may be even bigger. But behind closed doors, it’s unlikely NFL teams will show near the same interest in Sam’s announcement that he’s gay.

As Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman put it Thursday: “What are you going to ask him? He just came out and stated his position.”

[...]

With Sam, who earned All-America honors after coming out to teammates before last season, his answer already became public record Feb. 9 — he’s gay.

“If my area scout’s any good, he already knew that anyway,” an NFL personnel director said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

All the other questions — Will Sam be accepted in an NFL locker room? Will the media horde chronicling the NFL’s first openly gay player create resentment? — will be answered once he lands with a team.

The dynamic is different when entering a transient NFL locker room than in college, where players grow up together over four or five years. But Missouri’s excellent 2013 season suggests such questions are overblown anyway.

“One of the key differences between this and the Manti Te’o story is Manti Te’o wasn’t really in control of that situation,” said former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, a gay rights advocate who was at Sam’s coming out party the night before his announcement. “Mike is very much: ‘Yeah, this is who I am. Deal with it.’”

February 18, 2014

Michael Sam, latent homophobia, and the NFL draft

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:04

Jim Geraghty looks at two sides of the Michael Sam story: the media side and the football side. They’re very different stories.

Good luck, Michael Sam.

Those of us who are sports fans are going to have a fascinating couple weeks ahead, as the national political and cultural media insists upon interpreting the events of the National Football League draft through the lens of identity politics. They will attempt to shoehorn events into a made-for-TV movie storyline about Michael Sam, defensive end for the University of Missouri, and aspiring NFL player.

Our media used to writing one kind of identity politics story: a person comes out of the closet and becomes the first openly-gay person to achieve a particular goal, gets saluted for bravery, is elevated to hero status, and then spends the next few years going to black-tie awards dinners and being the subject of overwrought documentaries.

[...]

The NFL Draft comes with its own movie-ready drama. Unlike the Super Bowl or any other sports championship, the draft is a major annual event that involves every team, as every almost every team has a first-round draft choice. (Sorry, Washington Redskins fans.) There’s a near-complete reversal of fortune, as the league’s worst team has the first and most consequential choice, making a selection that could ignite a quick turnaround back to respectability or be remembered as one of the all-time flops. Every fan of every team has a reason to tune in, to see who their team picks, hoping to have gotten a future star. The NFL draft is one of those rare high-drama sporting events with no real losers.

But there are indeed big winners. For the players, draft day is their real graduation day, where they stop practicing their craft to ensure the prosperity of a university and finally cash in on their years of effort with, in most circumstances, a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract. Guys who grew up with next to nothing bring their mothers and their whole families to New York City, where they learn where they’ll be living for the next few years, pursuing their dream of stardom. Genuine tears of joy flow. At age 20 or 21 or so, these young men have achieved their childhood dreams.

I suspect most fans’ biggest question about Michael Sam is, ‘if my team drafts him, how much better will our pass rush get?’ NFL fans care about the off-the-field behavior of their favorite team’s players to a certain degree; nobody likes rooting for a thug and a player prone to off-the-field trouble represents a higher risk of getting himself suspended or in legal trouble someday. But it’s hard to believe that NFL fans who can come to terms with a one-man population explosion at cornerback or shrug off drug busts, assault charges, DWIs, public intoxication, and all kinds of other misbehavior will stop rooting for a team with a gay defensive end.

A large chunk of the media will insist upon interpreting every triumph and setback for Michael Sam through the lens of his homosexuality and their belief that he’s a flashpoint in a battle between ‘tolerance’ and ‘intolerance.’ But the career of an NFL player can rise or fall on a thousand different factors and twists of fate. Do the coaches use him correctly? How complicated is the defensive system, and how quickly can he pick up the signals, terminology, and strategy? Is he in a system designed to showcase his natural skills, or are the coaches trying to use him in a new or different role that takes time to learn? How good are the other players on the team at his position? Does he twist an ankle or tear an ACL? Sam seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but how does he handle the pressures of being a professional athlete?

In addition to the questions about whether Sam’s collegiate talents will be enough to allow him to flourish in the NFL, and whether a given team would welcome an openly gay team-mate in the locker room, there’s also the “Tim Tebow” problem … the team that drafts Sam will be in the unrelenting focus of the media’s publicity floodlights. Just drafting Sam would only be the start of the media’s attention. Everything to do with Sam will draw TV cameras, paparazzi, and the team’s beat writers for local media outlets.

Where is he going to live? What kind of car does he drive? Where does he shop? How do his new neighbours feel about him? What kind of clothes does he wear away from the team’s facilities? Where does he go for entertainment? Who is he hanging around with?

And that’s just the start of it. Once the pre-season routine gets underway with organized team activities, mini-camps, and then training camp, the team (probably the head coach, but also the GM and the defensive co-ordinator or the linebackers coach) will have their every word analyzed for Sam-newsworthyness. If Sam does poorly in a drill or a scrimmage, it’ll be all over the media. If he isn’t in the starting rotation, it’ll be interpreted (by some) as proof that the team isn’t serious about giving him a fair chance to play.

This might be acceptable to a team if Sam’s skills were top-10 quality, but most of the reports don’t indicate that. A team will put up with a lot if the player drawing the attention is an athletic superstar, but for what seems to be (at best) a player with fair-to-adequate skills, it may deter them from drafting him at all.

Each team starts the regular season with 53 players, but they take nearly twice that number to training camp. Players who are drafted will have a better-than-average chance of being on the opening day roster, but the chances go down significantly the later a player is drafted. All first and second round picks are going to be on the roster, but not all sixth or seventh round picks will be. Sam’s skill set indicate he might have been a mid-round pick before the news broke about him coming out. Now, he might not be picked until the sixth round or he may not be picked at all. If that happens, many will decry the NFL’s homophobia, but as you can see, there’s a lot more in play than just Sam and his NFL playing potential.

February 14, 2014

Facebook‘s multiplicity of gender choices

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:30

I have known enough people for whom the arbitrary division of people into “male” or “female” was insufficient that it didn’t surprise me at all that Facebook has extended their available self-designators. What does surprise is the vast selection of choices they currently support. Slate‘s Will Oremus attempted to identify all the options:

Facebook told me it has no plans to publish a comprehensive list of the choices it offers. So we took it upon ourselves to reconstruct it by typing each letter of the alphabet into the text field, one at a time, and transcribing the options that appeared. We found 56 custom options, bringing the total number of options to 58 including male and female. Please note that it’s possible that the list below is not complete. If you find one that we missed, please feel free to point it out in the comments and we’ll update accordingly.

The list goes from “Agender” to “Two-Spirit”. Who knew there could be so many discrete gender states?

February 10, 2014

The NFL’s first openly gay draft candidate and the Vikings’ image problem

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:11

It’s likely to be a very tense day in the public relations office of the Minnesota Vikings, after Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam came out … and the jokes started about the only team in the league that wouldn’t draft him. At The Viking Age, Dan Zinski rounds up the first crop of jokes and rumours:

News broke late Sunday afternoon of former Missouri defensive lineman and current NFL draft prospect Michael Sam’s decision to come out as a gay man. Immediately the jabs started appearing on Twitter, the great social media instant pop culture temperature gauge.

“Well, I know the Vikings won’t be drafting Michael Sam,” tweeted @dbaby_23.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say Michael Sam will not be drafted by the Vikings,” tweeted @ChrisJamesMMA.

“100000 dollars says the vikings dont draft michael sam,” tweeted @sports_scene.

“I bet Michael Sam would make a great special teams player for the vikings!” tweeted @MattesonTrevor.

“well you know the Vikings aren’t gonna draft Michael Sam,” tweeted @Miyag_e.

And on and on in that vein.

Endless jokes about how the Vikings will never draft Michael Sam because they have an openly homophobic coach on their staff.

Completely unfair jokes, because Mike Priefer, even if he thinks the things Chris Kluwe says he thinks, doesn’t speak for the team. He only speaks for himself.

But still, it’s out there. It’s in people’s minds. The Vikings are guilty of homophobia, if only by association.

A willing association with a man whose public image is, justly or unjustly, that of a bigot.

The timing couldn’t be much worse for the Vikings: they had an ongoing investigation into Chris Kluwe’s accusations against Mike Priefer, but they also had a new coaching staff being hired. They couldn’t just part company with Priefer while the investigation was underway for fear of being sued for wrongful dismissal. If the investigation sustains Kluwe’s side of the story, the team can discipline or dismiss Priefer with a clear conscience (assuming that the investigation isn’t a whitewash from the start), but if they clear Priefer of any wrongdoing, they’ll probably take an even worse beating in the court of public opinion … at least until the next NFL scandal comes up.

The media attention on the story of the first openly gay NFL player (assuming he’ll be drafted, that is) won’t be over quickly. The Vikings can only hope that their share of the attention will quickly diminish.

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