Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

Most children's storybooks portray women as being meek, gentle, ineffectual, rarely employed, and wholly dependent on their men — 50-year-old stereotypes that are demeaning and unfair, a researcher from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., says.

The Times of London reports that Claire Etaugh studied 60 children's books from each decade since the 1970s and concluded that active, ambitious women are largely absent. Most adult women are portrayed as being sympathetic, warm, gentle, nurturing, emotional, and dependent.

The only feisty women with roles that extend beyond baking cakes or washing clothes are evil, usually witches, she says. "Children are still being given the message that women should be quiet, ladylike and non-controversial," Etaugh said.

One of the worst offenders is the Harry Potter series, in which two of the most admired female characters exhibit nurturing, humble, emotional traits. "Mrs. Weasley and Harry's mother are known for their feminine traits, where family and children come first," Etaugh complains.,,2-2001230850,00.html

Bell Tolls for the Boy Scouts

Residents in Evanston, Ill., unsuccessfully attempted to nudge the Boy Scouts out of their position at the front of the city's annual Fourth of July parade because of the group's ban on openly gay scout leaders, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The biggest complaint is that the Scouts carried a replica of the Liberty Bell. "The symbolism of the Boy Scouts carrying the Liberty Bell is just wrong," said Clark Flint, a gay Evanston resident. "Nobody wants to challenge cute little Boy Scouts, but somebody has to or people are going to continue ignoring what is wrong with that picture."

Flint and others complained to the city's Human Relations Commission, which asked the parade's private sponsors to reconsider their decision. Parade leaders, however, opted to continue the long tradition of letting the Boy Scouts lead.

"We want to make this as inclusive as possible. We don't want to exclude anyone, not the Boy Scouts or anyone else," said Dave Sniader, president of the Fourth of July Parade Association.

Defining 'Tolerance'

A group of conservative religious leaders says the word "tolerance" — defined as the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others — is being twisted and abused by groups that are anything but tolerant to views dissenting from their own.

Toward Tradition, a national organization of Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians, made its case in an ad in the June 29 edition of The New York Times entitled "Terrorized by 'Tolerance.'"

The ad said, "Lately, accusations of 'intolerance' have chilled free speech. Armed with baseless charges of 'racism,' 'anti-Semitism' and 'homophobia,' the enforcers of 'tolerance' intimidate civic and religious leaders, and the rest of us too, who tremble lest we violate its dictates.",2933,28719,00.html

Tweaking History in Texas

The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have sued to undo the state of Texas' removal of several plaques honoring Confederate veterans of the Civil War from the state's Supreme Court building and replace them with memorials more palatable to modern tastes, reports

One of the offending plaques bore a Confederate battle flag and a quote from Gen. Robert E. Lee. The other bore the Great Seal of the Confederacy and described the structure as: "Dedicated to Texans who served in the Confederacy."

They were replaced by one stating that: "The Courts of Texas are entrusted with providing equal justice and the law to all persons regardless of race creed or color," and another offering this explanation for the original plaques: "Because this building was built with monies from the Confederate Pension Fund, it was, at that time, designated as a memorial to the Texans who served in the Confederacy."

The Sons of Confederate Veterans says the Texas General Services Commission's removal of the original plaques violated the wills of both the voters and the legislators who had them installed in the 1960s.

California's Rocky Horror Picture Show Law

The California Legislature is moving forward with a bill that would outlaw discrimination against transsexuals, drag queens, effeminate men, butch women, and anyone else who doesn't fit into a traditional gender stereotype, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The bill would essentially expand the definition of someone's "sex" to include appearance and behavior "different from that traditionally associated with a person's sex at birth." The measure is intended to protect people who are "gender nonconforming," according to its supporters.

Conservative opponents expressed fear that it would force nonprofit groups to hire men in dresses and threaten the state's economy, among other things.

"This bill turns the Rocky Horror Picture Show into California labor law," Assemblyman Ken Maddox, R-Garden Grove, said. "This is essentially designed to create anarchy for the people of California. It's a complete attack on normalcy."

Retiring the Word 'Retarded'

Despite its widespread usage in the news lately, developmental-disability professionals say the word "retarded" is demeaning and should be replaced by something less pejorative and likely to bring to mind schoolyard taunts, writes John Cook in Slate magazine.

Last May the American Association on Mental Retardation voted to change its name, but no one could agree on an appropriate replacement. In August, at the American Psychological Association's annual convention, the group's panel on Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities will likely drop the "R" word from its name.

Smart money is on the phrase "intellectual disability" as a successor, but many dislike the word "disability" so the issue is far from settled.

Cook notes that retarded is, of course, a step up from "moron," "imbecile" or "idiot," which were codified as appropriate technical terms in 1910 by the AAMR, then known as the Association of Medical Officers of American Institutions for Idiots and Feeble-Minded Persons.

From the Central Servers:

David T. in Atlanta, Ga., writes:

If we have to build public bathrooms for transvestites in addition to bathrooms for male and females, then half the small businesses in this country would be out of business within a year of the law being passed.

Ted W. says:

Perhaps we should add the term "Christophobia" or perhaps "bibliophobia" to our vocabulary.

Greg Q. in Baton Rouge, La., writes:

Let me get this straight. The knock on these cartoons is that they did not depict characters "fairly and accurately"? When have they ever? Who would argue that Bugs Bunny is a fair and accurate portrayal of rabbits? Or that Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam are fair and accurate portrayals of gun owners?

Isn't a destorted characterization the very idea behind a cartoon in the first place, hence the term "cartoon character"? I for one would not want to watch a "fair and accurate" portrayal of a cartoon bunny that sits around munching lettuce all day. Who would?

Kelli D. of Portsmouth, N.H., writes in response to Joe A.:

Many religious rituals are talked about in this column, and many people are shown to be exactly what they are: members of a group that feels that their religion is not something to be taken lightly or mocked in any way, although what happens to other religions is perfectly acceptable.

You, Mr. A., in stating that Catholic rituals are not to be toyed with while not speaking up when other religious rituals are mentioned are proving yourself to be the reason that this column is written, and that, I believe, is in the hopes that you and thousands like you will get over yourselves.

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