E.J. Graff

E.J. Graff writes on social-justice and human-rights issues, particularly discrimination and violence against women and children; marriage and family policy; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives. She is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center and the author of What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution (Beacon Press, 1999, 2004).

Recent Articles

Friday Poetry Break

Yes, I know, there was a big speech by a political figure last night. But you know what else? It's the last Friday of summer. Not in the solar calendar, but in our social calendar. Next week we all go back to school and buckle down again. So here's one of the most most admired poems of the late 20th century, a poem that I've said aloud I don't know how many times. It's by Robert Hass , who later became Poet Laureate. Meditation at Lagunitas By Robert Hass All the new thinking is about loss. In this it resembles all the old thinking. The idea, for example, that each particular erases the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown- faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk of that black birch is, by his presence, some tragic falling off from a first world of undivided light. Or the other notion that, because there is in this world no one thing to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds, a word is elegy to what it signifies. We talked about it late last night and in...

Thrown Away for Being Gay

(Letter image courtesy of thinkprogress.org)
Over at ThinkProgress, Zack Ford quotes and verifies a letter from a father disowning his son for being gay. Here’s an excerpt: Don’t expect any further conversations with me. No communications at all. I will not come to visit, nor do I want you in my house. You’ve made your choice though wrong it may be. God did not intend for this unnatural lifestyle. If you choose not to attend my funeral, my friends and family will understand. Read it in full . It’s heartbreaking. Yes, I often celebrate here how much LGBT rights are winning. But here’s what we haven’t won: safety for children growing up in families that have been taught to consider their own offspring an abomination if they were gay. About ten years ago, when I was doing public speaking on marriage equality, I found myself talking to LGBT college kids across the country. The best part was getting to spend time with the kids who volunteered to pick me up from the airport and ferry me to and from my hotel. But I was stunned by how...

The Boy Scouts' Learning Curve

(Flickr/David Blumenkrantz)
Since the Sandusky horror story first broke, we’ve seen a lot of articles exposing horrific behavior from the 1970s and 1980s. Serial abuse at the Horace Mann School. Philadelphia sprtswriter Bill Conlin 's long history of molesting children. Surely, there are more to come. This week's news comes from The Los Angeles Times, which has published an explosive, in-depth account of how the Boy Scouts of America have responded over the decades to child sexual abuse: by keeping a central file of volunteers banned for molesting Scouts, with detailed information about the relevant allegations and investigations. The headline, subhead, and introduction (the “nut graf,” in the lingo) suggest that the system failed: Boy Scout files reveal repeat child abuse by sexual predators Los Angeles Times review of Boy Scout documents shows that a blacklist meant to protect boys from sexual predators too often failed in its mission. A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files dating from 1970 to...

Who Said Women Can Have It All?

Remember that Anne-Marie Slaughter article in The Atlantic about a month and a half ago, whose title—"Why Women Still Can't Have It All"—drove feminists bonkers, while the substance nevertheless rang true for roughly 70 gazillion working parents in this country who are doing the impossible every single day? Rebecca Traister proposed forever retiring the phrase " having it all " here, and I chastised the magazine for the framing. But the article's core idea was right, as I wrote at the time: She’s right about this core truth: Being both a good parent and an all-out professional cannot be done the way we currently run our educational and work systems . When I talk to friends who’ve just had children, here’s what I tell them: Being a working parent in our society is structurally impossible. It can’t be done right, so don’t blame yourself when you’re failing. You’ll always be failing at something—as a spouse, as a parent, as a worker. Just get used to that feeling. Slaughter’s entire...

The Opposite of American

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
The Sikh temple shooting , which left seven dead including the shooter, has left me feeling more shaky than the shooting in Colorado, which seemed more random. I write that even though the skeleton of these stories is roughly the same. One man with a grudge takes semi-automatic weapons and opens fire at a public or semi-public event where people are gathered for some socially acknowledged purpose—education, work, politics, entertainment, worship. Some people die. Others are wounded. The gunman may or may not have the presence of mind to execute himself. Or he may choose to be martyred, putting himself in line for police to kill him. The gunman’s race and age vary, anywhere from 12 to 50. In the U.S., the majority of such gunmen are white, disproportionately (although just slightly) to their numbers in the population. They are overwhelmingly male. Sometimes the gunman has a personal motive for making others suffer: He lost his job, or girlfriend. Sometimes his motive is putatively...