Underpants Rule Limitations

Underpants RuleRegular readers of this blog will be familiar with The Underpants Rule. The Underpants Rule states that you are the boss of your underpants, other people are the boss of their underpants, and nobody is the Underpants Overlord – a full description can be found here.  It’s a shorthand that I use to discuss that fact that our personal choices should not be up for public debate.

Sometimes people get confused or conflicted about the extent of the Underpants Rule.  Reader Becky sent me the following question:

“I work in a bookstore and I’m conflicted every time someone wants a weight loss book. On the one hand: underpants rule. On the other: I just want to go Mr. Rogers on them (“I like you just the way you are!”) but without sounding like a creepy stranger or sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong. What are your thoughts on the line between the underpants rule and say something Sunday style activism?”

The Underpants Rule (UR) is a way to describe how I think of interaction around personal decisions. It works exactly the same way that our civil rights are supposed to – our right to punch ends at the tip of someone else’s nose.   So while I’m allowed to enjoy choosing to run around, punching my arms out and flailing them around muppet-style, I’m not allowed to do so in a crowed room and claim that if people don’t like getting punched in the face then they shouldn’t come in that room.  I’m allowed to yell “Fire!” at home by myself, but not in a crowded theater.

If someone’s decisions are personal and don’t affect me, then the Underpants Rule applies:  they are the boss of their underpants and it’s not for me to interfere if they want to diet, or attempt to climb Everest, or take the cinnamon challenge.  If someone’s decisions do affect me directly, including and especially if they are attempting to infringe on my rights, then it’s a UR violation. Let’s look at some examples:

Someone thinks that dieting is the path to health so they choose to diet.

Underpants rule all the way, I don’t agree but those aren’t my underpants so I say nothing.

Someone thinks that dieting is the path to health so they try to pass a law that fat people need to diet, or limiting the rights of fat people who refuse to do so.

Noooo. World of no, Galaxy of no.  No. Obviously this is infringing on the rights of other people to make choices for their health so the Underpants Rule does not apply.

Someone thinks that same gender marriage is wrong so they marry someone of the opposite gender.

No problem, underpants rule – feel free to take a pass on marrying another dude.

Someone thinks that same gender marriage is wrong so they try to stop other people from having the ability to get married.

Nope, this infringes on other people’s rights so the UR does not apply.  (Sometimes people suggest that they are being oppressed if same-gender marriage is legal because they don’t believe it’s right for whatever very sincerely held reason.  Not so much.  That’s not oppression any more than stores selling bacon oppresses those who think that eating bacon is wrong. They would only be oppressed if they were forced into a same-gender marriage.)

Fat people’s decisions are my business because of my tax dollars.

Not a valid argument for all of these reasons.  Underpants rule violation.

Because I’m allowed to attempt weight loss, I should be allowed to talk about my weight loss attempt in every space in the world, including those that someone else created that they’ve designated as a Size Acceptance/No Weight Loss Talk space.

Nope, nope, nope-ity, nope.  The fact that people have the right to do what they want with their bodies does not mean that every space has to be available for them to talk about that.  It’s completely ok to create safe spaces, whether that’s a Size Acceptance space, a POC only space, a Queer positive space where they don’t allow posts encouraging people to become ex-gay, a weight loss space that doesn’t allow people to disparage weight loss attempts, etc.

I think that I should only wear clothes that are flattering/appropriate etc. by my definition of flattering/appropriate.

Of course, enjoy your clothes, if those clothes aren’t available to you I’ll be happy to fight for your right to be accommodated.

All fat people should wear clothes that meet my definition of flattering/appropriate or they deserve to be treated poorly for their choices.

Total bullshit.  UR violation. If you haven’t seen this article about this very thing, I think you’re missing out!

Becky’s question about someone wanting to buy a diet book from a bookstore where I’m the clerk.

Those are their underpants, so it’s not my place to say anything. (If I was buying Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor’s book and the person selling me the book tried to tell me that I should buy a diet book instead I would be so furious I would be blogging about it on my phone in my car in the parking lot.)

The UR says that I have to accept people’s mistreatment of me because they get to be the boss of their underpants.

This is perhaps the most dangerous misinterpretation of the UR, and shame on anyone who tries to use the UR to justify poor treatment of others.  Other people have a right to make choices for themselves, they don’t have a right to mistreat others, or infringe on the rights of others.  Ever.  You may not be able to control the behavior of others, and circumstances may dictate the way that you react, but nothing justifies your being mistreated, especially not the Underpants Rule.

The fact that the Underpants Rule exists also doesn’t mean that everyone has all of the choices that they would prefer to make accessible to them.  There are all kinds of things standing between people and the full expression of the underpants rule – lack of accessibility, socioeconomic disparity/poverty, racism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, healthism, and sizeism, and that’s just a start.  Those who try to use the UR to erase those injustices or suggest that they shouldn’t be fought are seriously missing the point of the UR, or are purposefully abusing the concept.

Finally, sometimes people may make the conscious choice to break the UR because they feel that someone is doing themselves harm.  Different people have different ideas of when this is acceptable, this is a choice that we each have to make in our own lives.

The Underpants Rule is something that helps me remember that other people’s personal choices aren’t my business if they don’t affect me, and that my choices aren’t other people’s business if they don’t affect them.  Our underpants are, in fact, our own.

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Published in: on March 9, 2015 at 10:38 am  Comments (61)  

61 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is one of the hardest things for me. I’ve just come off 2 and a half years of dieting hell (on the paleo diet) and when I see people dieting, I just want to take them aside and tell them no, it’s not good for you. But I’m learning now that people don’t really want to listen to me. When they’ve made up their mind about something, the only way they’re going to learn is by taking the long route. I do want to write a book about my experience one day though.

    • If people are on the paleo diet, chances are pretty high that they don’t do it to lose weight, but to solve all kinds of health problems. Just like I do (and nearly every other paleo person I’ve ever met, too). And this can be true for other types of diets as well, not just paleo. You never know why a person chooses to eat in a certain way – weight loss is just one of the hundreds of reasons.

      • I think my reason for going past the line (which I know I shouldn’t) is because the paleo diet messed up my health. But I suppose, unless I’m a qualified nutritionist, I have no right to tell them not to follow it (although I have studied nutrition for years online.) I just don’t want them to learn the hard way like I did. Wish I could prevent them that pain. Maybe I should start a blog.

        • I don’t think you understood what I wanted to say.
          I’m really sorry that the paleo diet made you unhappy, but please don’t assume that the same is true for everybody else. The paleo diet isn’t a way to lose weight, but a way to improve your health. People’s bodies are very different and your bad experience with the paleo diet doesn’t mean that everyone is going through the same experience. I’ve been happily paleo for nearly five years – I’ve lost very little weight, but my overall health is way better than it used to be and I no longer experience any bloatiness, tiredness after meals, indigestion, skin problems, etc. If you stop assuming that everybody on the paleo diet is going through the same experience that you did, maybe you’ll stop wanting to break the Underpants Rule🙂

          • Personally, I went vegetarian and I think it messed with my health.. but many people who go vegetarian actually experience IMPROVED health. No “diet” (and here I mean it in the context of, food habitually consumed) works for everyone. I was just thinking of a great blog on this topic: http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/real-food/

            That said, I do know what you mean about wanting to dissuade people from going on a certain diet. It’s hard! People often come to me for advice on vegetarianism as they know I am/was one (before that burger this weekend..!), but I feel like if they are ASKING me, and I give them a balanced answer based on their own needs/wants, I don’t feel that’s breaking the underpants rule. I also clarify that any response I give is based on my own experience, and I can almost always think of an exception to myself.

            • If people who have studied nutrition or medical people kept quiet when they saw other people doing things harmful to their health, they would say something. It’s like if you see someone walking along merrily, oblivious to harm, and you know they’re headed for a deep ditch, you would warn them, wouldn’t you? Out of compassion, not judgement! Yes, if the person insists that what they’re doing is right for them, then I would back down.

              But I admit, I do tend to see things in black and white. I struggle to see how a diet that messed up my adrenal and thyroid glands would be beneficial to anyone. Are our bodies so vastly different?But, from studying nutrition extensively, I can see the opinions are so varied and everyone believes they’re right!

              I’m a different person to who I was a year ago. A year ago, I was a mess! Oh, and I tried the vegetarian route too. That one didn’t work for me either but it wasn’t nearly as bad as low-carb.

              I have reached a point now when I know it’s safer to leave the conversation whenever people talk about dieting in any form. It just makes my hackles rise and gets me down that dark and dismal pathway to body dissatisfaction and discontent. And it gets me way too fired up for peaceful conversation.

              I’d better keep quiet before I break all the rules.

              • I know what you mean about not wanting to keep quiet when you are worried people will harm themselves.. but if I can think of anything that makes me want to rebel, it’s hearing someone tell me I SHOULD NOT do it. Just ask my mom🙂

    • Perfectly understandable. After I had a breast reduction I wanted to go up to every extremely large breasted woman I saw, lift my shirt up and exclaim “You don’t have to live this way!” But of course I didn’t. I certainly told everyone who asked how wonderful it was, though.

  2. What about environment infringements? When I see someone throw away something recyclable, can I say something? When I see someone emptying their radiator into the gutter, can I say something?

    • I’d say so because their decision doesn’t only affect them, it may cause harm to countless organisms – possibly an entire ecosystem! We’re responsible for the environment and I think that includes holding each other accountable.

    • Here I would say that if they are doing something illegal, then it’s beyond the scope of the UR. If they are simply not doing what you would do (perhaps they believe the research that suggests that recycling actually uses more energy than it saves and so they are doing what they believe is best for the environment), then you’re breaking the UR. Perhaps you think it’s important enough to do that, and you are willing to live with the consequences.

      ~Ragen

      • If I can only bitch at folks who are breaking laws (and then presumably have to wait until the environmental laws are written to start bitching), how is anything going to change? Of course I believe it is worth the consequences – – probably for similar reasons that you call people out for being bigots, even tho it is not illegal to be a bigot?

        P.S. Recycling is not an energy-thing, it’s a resource conservation/pollution aversion thing. We have plenty of energy coming at us, we just need to change the kinds of energy we use to do the things we do. And I am not saying you didn’t know that, but I cannot tell if you knew or cared from your comment, and especially did not want to leave anyone reading this thinking that that argument was valid (at least not in everyone’s opinion). Thx.

    • Amazingly enough, recycling isn’t available in all areas, even here in America. Even in a big city! It wasn’t for me, for a long time. So, people who don’t have the option to recycle at home don’t get into the habit of separating recyclables, and may very well take those habits out into the world.

      Also, I used to work in a place that did the recycling separation for us (they hired a company to sort our trash), and provided ONLY regular trash cans. People would complain about the lack of recycling, and they’d say, “Oh, but we do recycle. You just don’t see it.” So there again, habits were developed of people feeling confident that their stuff was being recycled, every time they threw something in the regular trash.

      Another thing I’ve noticed about people is that for common objects like trash cans and light fixtures, no one pays attention to them, unless they NEED them. So, if you have something to throw away, that is when you start looking around for a bin. You don’t scout them out before you have any trash. And so you notice the first one you see, not necessarily the most appropriate one. If there’s a trash can close to you, but the recycling is across the room, a lot of people would just use the trash can, not because they’re too lazy to walk across the room, but because they noticed the trash can, first, and didn’t keep looking for a recycle bin. In our area, the odds are just as good that there will NOT be a recycle bin, anyway. So, if I see someone about to throw away a can or bottle in the regular trash, I assume that they simply have not seen the recycling bin.

      A gentle, “There’s a separate bin for that,” with a quick point toward the bin, is usually fine, IF they haven’t let go of the item, yet. I operate on the assumption that they haven’t seen the bin, and so I let them know it’s there. After that, they are aware, and it’s underpants rule.

      Now, if they drop in on the ground, that’s littering, and there are ordinances against that. Recycling, however, in my municipality is encouraged, but not mandatory, so falls under the underpants rule.

      I know nothing about radiator fluid.

  3. I worked in bookstores for over a decade, which was something I loved. But of course I had to sell a lot of books I found distasteful in one way or another.

    The important thing to remember about the UR in retail work is that if a customer asks you where to find an item, you show it to them if you have it… but if they ask you your opinion of it, you are free to give an honest personal opinion (so long as that won’t violate company policy). When people asked me if I would consider a particular diet book, I generally told them no, I wouldn’t. It was up to them what they chose to do with the opinion of a random stranger who happened to work in the store. But most people who come into bookstores tend to assume that whichever person they talk to is an expert on precisely the sort of book they’re looking to buy. Funny that.

    • A lot of people figure that if you work in a bookstore or a library, you must be a bookworm who has read everything on the shelves.

      Unfortunately, there are also people who figure that unless you are the OWNER of the bookstore, or the head librarian, then you are just an uneducated plebe who can barely alphabetize and shelve books, and certainly haven’t read any of them.

      People are funny that way. We, as a species, seem to enjoy making snap judgements and generalizations. I think it’s a way to simplify a complex world. It’s not accurate or effective, but it sure is popular.

  4. This is great. Due to my age and accompanying hormonal fluctuations, I’m part of a perimenopause support group online. Every day, it seems, people are asking for advice on how to lose weight, how to stop the weight gain that is a natural part of getting older, or how to cover up their new bingo wings in the summer heat. When I see posts like this, I invariably post advice like, “Radical self-acceptance. Wear a tank top. You have earned your bingo wings and there is nothing wrong with dressing for your own comfort. Love your body the way it is today, and do something that makes you happy.” I post a picture of the scale that has a list of stuff the scale doesn’t tell you: your worth as a person, etc. … At first the moderator of the group didn’t know what to do with me. She even removed a post where I had responded like that. The whole thread! But I kept going, and now in addition to the “don’t eat carbs” people, others are starting to encourage group members not to stress about their body’s natural changes.

  5. [TRIGGER WARNING: This comment, and the discussion below it contain homophobic sentiments. I did not delete it because the discussion had gotten so far before I saw it, and I wanted to preserve the important non-homophobic points made here. I left a comment and also copied my comment into this comment my apologies to everyone who read this before I could create the trigger warning.]

    I have a question about something you said in this blog, but I am terrified to ask because I don’t want to be attacked. I mean this as sincerely as possible- I LOVE people. ALL people. My husband is a minister and we do believe that same sex marriage is wrong biblically. We allow gay people in our church, I have gay friends- but I don’t believe that it’s ok. Now, I’m not passing laws against it however, I am afraid that is laws are passed, my husband will be forced to perform same sex marriages. This is a sincere, strong religious belief based on the bible and how does the underpants rule apply to something like this?
    Please be respectful as I mean this sincerely. I am not trying to oppress people, we just personally don’t want to be forced to compromise our religious beliefs or be faced with jail time.

    COMMENT FROM THE BLOG AUTHOR:
    Your husband will not be forced to perform same gender marriages since the right of religious freedom allows religions to justify all manner of bigotry based on their sincerely held religious beliefs, as well as the ability to choose who to and not to marry (as people have already expressed this includes churches being allowed to refuse to marry people who have been previously divorced, who are from a different congregation or religion, who didn’t complete the required marriage “counseling” etc..) I think that the idea that religious leaders would be jailed due to their choice to discriminate against same gender couples and justify it in the name of god is beyond far-fetched.

    I don’t think that your husband should be forced to perform same sex marriages – his right to religious freedom gives him a “out” when it comes to discriminating in this way within his church and I respect that just as I respect the fact that a minister who does want to marry same gender couples should have every right to do so because that is also protected by religious freedom. I also support people who do activism within their churches to try to eliminate bigotry based on their sincerely held beliefs about what god thinks is right or wrong.

    While religious freedom allows bigotry on the basis of people stating that they know it’s what god wants, it is only allowed within the walls of the church and, outside of the church only in people’s personal choices – the problem comes when people use religious-based bigotry to attempt to justify codifying that bigotry into law, which I do appreciate that you are not doing.

    I don’t know what your definition of love is, but as far as I am concerned, as a queer woman you cannot simultaneously love me while denying me the same rights that you currently enjoy and saying that you think that who I am is wrong in the eyes of your opinion of God. Just like I don’t accept that it’s ok for people to want to have a war to eradicate obesity as long as they say that they don’t want to stigmatize me in the process, or suggest that it’s ok to keep punching me in the face because, while they think it’s the right thing to do, they don’t intend to hurt me.

    I also think that stating your bigotry out loud, outside of your church, is an act of oppression – whether you believe that god would discriminate against queer people or not – and this is the last time I’ll allow it on this blog (and only because the discussion had gotten so far before I saw it.)

    ~Ragen

    • Nobody can force any minister of any faith to perform a marriage of any sort. Marriage is a legal state… Defined legally by law and by the state. So my marriage in the court house is as legal as someone else’s marriage in the eyes of the law. However, due to the usual and customary separation of church and state and the constitutional protections of freedom of religion, there is no law which would compel a minister/rabbi/priest, etc. to perform a marriage. The same way a Jewish rabbi cannot now be forcibly legally compelled to marry a catholic couple, your husband could never lawfully be compelled to do the same for a gay couple. However, that gay couple DOES have the right to be married in the eyes of the law, the same as any other couple. Does that make sense? I hope so and I hope your inquiry was indeed a serious one, and not trolling. Your views on gay people are your own, however misguided. I would encourage you to find some objective and trustworthy news sources for information on things like this, as it sounds like perhaps some fear mongering is taking place in whatever circles you are running in.

      • While I do appreciate your serious answer, I do not appreciate your calling my view misguided, nor your implication that there is fear mongoring in my “group”- maybe you should check the news more. There is a currently a case in Idaho in which city officials told Donald Knapp that he and his wife Evelyn, both ordained ministers that they are required to perform such ceremonies or face months in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines. This is happening now in our country, so my sincere question is one that is already happening.

        • I think that you should do some more reading on the issue, because it seems clear to me that the reason the Knapps were told they “could” be charged with a misdemeanor was because their business is, in fact, just that: a business, a For Profit business, which is very different from a church. Religious entities are apparently exempt under the city of Coeur d’Alene’s new ordinance, and it would seem that the Knapps are now re-incorporating their business so that the new ordinance won’t apply to them.

        • You asked for feedback, I gave it to you. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the case you are talking about, since this really isn’t the forum for it. I do think you’re trolling, just for the record.

          • Well for the record, I have been reading his blog for a long time and have commented many times before.

            • Oh, wait. Are you Evelyn Knapp?

              • I’m so curious about the answer to this now!
                That is a disingenuously phrased “question” if that is the case.

        • I believe that this is the case you are talking about – http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/9364 and http://iffconsultants.com/human-rights-cases/20967-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-for-profit-idaho-chapel-being-forced-to-perform-a-gay-wedding.html?

          Ordained ministers or not, it seems that the wedding chapel that the couple in question run is a for-profit enterprise, and is not recognized as a church, and as such is subject to state and federal non-discrimination statutes. Which means that yes, they can be sued, fined, and face jail time.

        • Are they required to marry same-sex couples as *legal* officiants or as leaders of their churches? In other words, are they required to perform legal or religious ceremonies?

          • Apparently (in this particular case in this Idaho city) if it’s a for-profit business, they are not permitted under the law to discriminate against same-sex couples. Religious organizations are exempt from the non-discrimination law and can refuse to marry same-sex couples. The Knapps’ business was a for-profit wedding chapel, not a religious organization. It would seem they are now applying to have their legal status changed so that they are not legally required to be non-discriminatory.

            • Thanks for clarifying that.🙂

      • Evelyn, nobody can compel a church to conduct a particular wedding of any description. Couples can be turned down for weddings because they are not members of the congregation, because they don’t complete marriage counseling required by that church, because they have been divorced, because the couple is interracial or interfaith… I even heard of a couple that was turned down by their church because the groom arrived at a meeting with the priest wearing a Black Sabbath tee shirt. In all of these situations the churches acted within their legal rights. Nobody is going to imprison your husband for refusing to marry any specific couple, same sex or otherwise.

        As Marianne noted, same sex marriage laws require that secular authorities must agree to marry same sex couples, but that does not obligate any church to be the ones to do it. Spiritual authorities may pick and choose while purely legal ones must perform any legal marriage service that comes their way. That said, there are many churches willing and eager to marry same-sex couples. And there are many same-sex couples who would like every bit as much pomp and circumstance – not to mention spiritual blessing – as any opposite-sex couple.

        And again, echoing Marianne, I sincerely hope you will seek out factual information on this subject. It’s easy to confirm what we have said.

        • I appreciate you sincerely talking about this, but honestky my original question was not whether or not it’s legal, it was about how people feel about this in regards to the underpants rule. The legal talk only came up because i was accused of believing in fear mongoring. I was just showing that there are cases popping up about this issue. (And that wasn’t the only one)

          • Okay, so here’s what I think: The Underpants Rule still applies no matter what the reason for your beliefs. You thinking that gay people do not deserve to be married to their partners is something you should keep to yourself unless you are specifically asked for your opinion. This post clearly says “Other people have a right to make choices for themselves, they don’t have a right to mistreat others, or infringe on the rights of others.” That doesn’t change because “the Bible.” You can believe what you choose for yourself, but that doesn’t give you the right to mistreat others (by announcing that they are wrong for being gay) or to infringe upon their rights. Seems clear enough to me.

            • Again, that wasn’t what I was asking. I was asking about when the right the of other force me to do something. I didn’t ask if I should run around telling gay people they can’t marry. I was asking how UR pertains to gay marriage being legal and ministers possibly being forced to perform these marriages or be forced to open their churches for the ceremonies. When one belief forces another to act on that.
              THAT is what I was asking!!

              • I honestly think the information you were asking for wasn’t clear. I don’t think anyone was deliberately trying NOT to answer your question. And I’m still not totally sure what your question is. If what you’re asking is “how does the UR apply to religious people being forced to perform gay marriage when they do not approve of same sex relationships” the answer is “it doesn’t, because 1. this is a legal question and the UR is not a law and 2. it still doesn’t, because the law does not force religious organizations to do things that are against their religious beliefs in a religious context.” The Knapp issue being used as an example is sort of a red herring, because the reason they were being told that refusing to perform same sex marriages was discriminatory was because they were operating as a for-profit wedding chapel and not as a church.

              • People are forced to their jobs and not discriminate. Businesses are not allowed to discriminate. Your fear of a for profit business being required to provide services to lgbtq people relates to the underpants rule the same as a restaurant being forced to provide services to people of all races equally regardless of race.
                Your question, outside the confines of church, is one of discrimination, end of story.

    • I’m pretty sure, due to separation of church and state, that a religious organization and its members cannot be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Any marriage equality laws that are passed only affect *legal* marriage, which does not need to be performed in a church. Also, I can’t speak for all LGBTQ+ people, but if I wanted to marry someone who happened to have the same genitals as me, I would choose an officiant who not only “allowed” me, but celebrated me and my partner as just another loving couple. In other words, I’d steer clear of your church. I hope people in your area have access to officials and organizations that don’t believe they’re wrong.

    • It makes me sad for your gay friends that you don’t think it’s okay for them to be who they are. Would you prefer that they forced themselves to live an unhappily-heterosexual life? They must be incredibly kind, understanding and loving people to be friends with those who disapprove of them.

    • Lots of people have “sincerely held beliefs”. But you need to realize that your beliefs are not everyone’s beliefs, and that you shouldn’t shove them out at the world at large if the world has not asked for your opinion on that subject.

      So yes, the underpants rule still applies.

    • Your husband will not be forced to perform same gender marriages since the right of religious freedom allows religions to justify all manner of bigotry based on their sincerely held religious beliefs, as well as the ability to choose who to and not to marry (as people have already expressed this includes churches being allowed to refuse to marry people who have been previously divorced, who are from a different congregation or religion, who didn’t complete the required marriage “counseling” etc..) I think that the idea that religious leaders would be jailed due to their choice to discriminate against same gender couples and justify it in the name of god is beyond far-fetched.

      I don’t think that your husband should be forced to perform same sex marriages – his right to religious freedom gives him a “out” when it comes to discriminating in this way within his church and I respect that just as I respect the fact that a minister who does want to marry same gender couples should have every right to do so because that is also protected by religious freedom. I also support people who do activism within their churches to try to eliminate bigotry based on their sincerely held beliefs about what god thinks is right or wrong.

      While religious freedom allows bigotry on the basis of people stating that they know it’s what god wants, it is only allowed within the walls of the church and, outside of the church only in people’s personal choices – the problem comes when people use religious-based bigotry to attempt to justify codifying that bigotry into law, which I do appreciate that you are not doing.

      I don’t know what your definition of love is, but as far as I am concerned, as a queer woman you cannot simultaneously love me while denying me the same rights that you currently enjoy and saying that you think that who I am is wrong in the eyes of your opinion of God. Just like I don’t accept that it’s ok for people to want to have a war to eradicate obesity as long as they say that they don’t want to stigmatize me in the process, or suggest that it’s ok to keep punching me in the face because, while they think it’s the right thing to do, they don’t intend to hurt me.

      I also think that stating your bigotry out loud, outside of your church, is an act of oppression – whether you believe that god would discriminate against queer people or not – and this is the last time I’ll allow it on this blog (and only because the discussion had gotten so far before I saw it.)

      ~Ragen

      • Ragen, I think your first sentence is missing a “not” — shouldn’t it read “your husband wlll NOT be forced to perform same gender marriages”?

    • Echoing that ministers cannot be forced to marry people by the government outside the beliefs of their marriage. That is a religious freedom thing. Just the same as Catholic priests have not been required by law to marry non-Catholics, even though non-Catholics have the right to be married by law.
      As Ragen points out though, this is restricted to actions regarding religious activity by church employees.
      The same does not apply to government employees performing government functions. As in, government employees should* not be able to refuse to process a marriage license for a same-sex couple because of their religious beliefs.
      (*using should because I’m in a state that does not have marriage equality yet , and I’m not sure the actual laws in states that do).

      Outside of working for a church (synagogue, mosque, et cetera), if one’s religious beliefs will prevent them from doing their job/parts of their job/their job with certain people, then that person should choose a different career because you are not discriminating and potentially harming someone else because of your beliefs. (This Applies also to the case of the for-profit chapel as they are running a for profit business not working for a religious institution.)

      This is an issue a lot in my field (social work) with the issue of whether it is ok for a social worker, especially when working as a therapist, to refuse to work with lgbtq clients and even moreso if it’s ok for schools to require students to work with those clients.
      I am very strongly on the side of people needing to either be able to work competently with lgbtq clients or choose another field. As a queer person, no I don’t want an anti-lgbtq therapist to be forced to work with me. But I also don’t want to worry that if I come out I will be dropped because my therapist is anti-lgbtq. This is harmful to clients because it further stigmatizes and shames lgbtq people. And you can’t expect that this is even something that will be known right away. My last therapist I started seeing as a teenager, so it was over 10 years since I’d first seen her before I came out in therapy. I have a new therapist now who happens to also be a queer woman, which I learned only after I came out to her, which still wasn’t until after seeing her a few months (not that I was hiding it, but dating and thus my sexual orientation had just never come up before that.)
      That is slightly off topic, but I think not really because this is an ongoing issue and it is relevant to the issue of “will I be forced to work with people I disagree with?”

      (Though it is also so telling that just the other day I talked to a colleague who was saying how they came across this issue with a student intern who wouldn’t work with a group of people people of their religious beliefs, and didn’t specify what groups of people, and I was like “lgbtq people?” sure enough…. The fact that I can predict this will be about lgbtq people is itself indicative of the problem.)

  6. Also, while I think Ragen made this entirely clear, I just want to add my two cents on book store employees commenting on people’s purchases unless asked. In that they shouldn’t. EVER. This would be equivalent to the grovery store clerk giving unsolicited advice or commentary on the food I am buying. Unless you are asked, it just isn’t your business.

    • I think it’s OK to give a positive comment, such as, “Oh, I read that last month and loved it!” or “That brand of ice cream is my favorite.” Keeping it personal, as in “I” liked it, and positive, as in I “LIKED” it, and it should offend no one.

      But only do these positive personal statements if they are true.

      This is just coming from a customer, though, not a professional store employee or business owner, so grain of salt and all that.

  7. I want to say that I fully support the Underpants Rule in theory but that I do struggle with it in practice sometimes. It’s one thing if people talk about their diets (either weight restrictive or in a more general “what they eat” sense) with pleasure for themselves while avoiding any hint of judgment of others, but it’s another altogether if people are complaining about being hungry or their inevitable post-diet weight gain with frustration and unhappiness. It’s a challenge sometimes to bite my tongue but I do try.

    • Oh, yeah, it’s hard to bite my tongue, too. I want to be evangelical about body acceptance, but I’ve realized that some people just aren’t ready for it, and would be hurt and offended if I started on it, while they are talking about their dieting struggles.

      So, I’ve had to learn how to deal. I find that supportive smiles and the occasional nod, or “Oh, tell me about it,” makes them feel like you’re on their side, even if you don’t come out and actively agree with them. Then, later on, when they’re not even close to the subject of dieting, I can introduce my own “What I’ve Learned About Dieting,” topic, and control it, keeping it positive and personal, telling about MY body and MY experience, and not seeming to judge THEIRS.

      Of course, if you don’t want to hear about it, because it’s triggering or just makes you want to smack them, changing the subject is a good thing, too. You can say, “Sorry, I just can’t talk about diets now. Hey, do you like basketball?” It’s best if you can change to a topic you know they care about (if you know them well enough). In fact, if you can do it, ask them about their favorite topic, as if you know they are an expert, and you really respect their opinion on the topic. This means you don’t have to hear the diet talk, but they are still feeling accepted and wanted.

      • Good advice, Michelle!

  8. The only comment I ever really want to hear from a bookseller is “oh hey, I read that book. It was good”. Other comments, especially about health related items, sound preachy to me. Clear UR violation.

    And since the comment thread here has clearly taking a bit of a turn, i’d just like to point out that in many States, it is still perfectly legal to discriminate upon the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Many people think we have already cleared that hurdle. We have not.

    • Yeah, and that’s just one country. There are a lot of places in the world.

      I do appreciate the odd warning from a bookseller, such as “That book has a lot of French in it,” but only if it’s likely to be an actual issue. And yeah, I’d have saved a lot of frustration if I had been warned about a few particular books, because I DON’T read French, and you’d think that an English book about English history would at the least include translations of the French phrases and quotations, instead of simply saying, “Sir Walter Pennybrook once famously declared ‘something or other in French,’ which, as you can see was an excellent summation of his character.” Grrrrr! Of course, someone who does read French would have probably found it all mighty fine, and I did really enjoy all the English parts of the book.

      However, such warnings have to be offered with care, so they don’t come off sounding like, “I’m sure this is all going to be over YOUR head, you ignorant buffoon.” Which is why I still believe that positive personal statements are best, and warnings should be simple and direct, such as “this book assumes X, Y, and Z about the reader,” and then only if it’s a MAJOR issue. Three or four French phrases? Not a big deal. Five pages in a row of untranslated French, followed by an “as you can see from this” statement? GRRRRR! Give me warning, please, if you know about it. But do it in a non-judgey way, using positive statements.

      • I hate that too, especially if it’s in German. I can muddle through the French, as I took first year uni. French, and I can certainly read Spanish as I almost had enough courses for a minor. But German is totally foreign.

        • I lived in Germany for years, and studied it several times, and I still can’t read and translate it. “Wo ist der bahnhoff?” is about my level.

          Frankly, I spent the majority of my time nodding and smiling, and talking with my hands.

          The thing that really got me was the three different genders for nouns. I never could get the hang of declining the articles.

          Then, I met a Bavarian woman who helped me. “When you’re speaking, don’t worry about the articles. Just say, “de,” and leave it at that.” So, I learned how to speak to Bavarians, who were more laid back, but High German? Nope. Still can’t manage it, still can’t write it, and still can’t read it.

          Meanwhile, I’m trying to learn French, so I can study Regency England, where the upper-classes spoke French fluently, as a matter of course. I learned that from that English history book. Someday, I’ll go back and read it again, and find out what was so telling about those quotations.

  9. Thanks for this post Ragen. I think it’s important to discuss what is and isn’t our or other people’s business. In times like this (where everyone seams to think that everything is not only their business but that they have a right to insist on spouting their own opinions on every subject that comes up), there is a mighty need for discussions of boundaries, what is and isn’t our business, and the Underpants Rule.

  10. Love me some underpants rule!

  11. Reblogged this on thedancermohana and commented:
    Ragen Chastain is keynote speaker at the 2nd Annual Dangerous Curves Plus Size Belly Dance Convention!
    http://www.plussizedbellydancersconvention.com

  12. It’s a good rule!


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