National Domestic Violence

definition-txt

Abuse doesn’t come from people’s inability to resolve conflicts but from one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another. So while it is valuable, for example, to teach nonviolent conflict-resolution skills to elementary school students… such efforts contribute little by themselves to ending abuse. Teaching equality, teaching a deep respect for all human beings — these are more complicated undertakings, but they are the ones that count.”
Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Racism is to White America as domestic violence is to people who have never experienced it: Difficult to comprehend but easy to assign blame. Usually upon the wrong party.

The best way to describe how the systematic racism present in every pillar of life in the United States – from the job market, to housing, education, wealth distribution, incarceration, and healthcare – affects black communities would be to characterize it as an abusive relationship.

Nationwide domestic violence.

protest sign 2Black communities experience physical abuse at the hands of the police, financial abuse at the hands of the municipal courts, and emotional abuse at the hands of the media.

This is neither an exaggeration, nor a wagging finger at black communities for being “victims”. Far too often discussions about violent relationships revolve around the abused (“Why does he continue to make excuses for her? Why doesn’t she just leave?”), and ignore the actions of the abuser. This will not be one of those conversations.

Abusive relationships consist of emotional and/or physical abuse for the purposes of gaining & maintaining total control over the target. Abusers use manipulation, coercion, violence, and intimidation to wear the subject down. The most telling sign of an abusive relationship is fear.

protest sign 4 . jpg

If you have not noticed the chants and signs of the protesters, the numerous Op-Eds, the weeping parents (then you are fucking blind); the United States has created an environment in which black communities live in near-constant fear & intimidation of the state. Black communities have their children taken away by Child Protective Services at higher rates (source 1, source 2) for minor infractions (Baltimore Mom is currently being investigated by CPS) or false rumors prompted by something as innocuous as an Instagram Photo. Black communities are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates, effectively breaking apart families, crippling their earning power, and in the case of felons removing their right to vote. Black communities have their assets seized by authorities for little or no reason, such as in Missouri where city governments treat their black citizens like personal piggy banks to be shaken down for money at a whim (source). And they are murdered in broad daylight by police officers – the vast majority of whom will never face an internal investigation let alone criminal charges, while those we have had the luck to catch on video still miraculously come out unscathed (or $600k better for it).

But an abusive relationship starts long before punches are thrown and shots are fired. It starts with emotional abuse and manipulation. Abusers will often isolate their subjects and remove their social safety nets so they have no-one to turn to, nowhere to go. Abusers will often use manipulation to fool others into thinking their subject is the crazy one. Bandcroft calls this “the Water Torturer”.

“The central attitudes driving the Water Torturer are:
You are crazy. You fly off the handle over nothing.
I can easily convince other people that you’re the one who is messed up.
As long as I’m calm, you can’t call anything I do abusive, no matter how cruel.”

― Lundy BancroftWhy Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Sound familiar?

During Baltimore Uprising our six (SIX!) media conglomerates provided incredibly biased, sensationalistic, and derogatory coverage of the protests. Word choice is important, and they chose to call protesters “thugs” and the protests themselves “riots”, while simultaneously bypassing footage of the vastly larger peaceful demonstrations.

10,000 strong & totally peaceful in Baltimore. Photo credit: Black Westchester

90% of the media in America is owned by 232 media executives (who I’m guessing are a bunch of old white guys). Baltimore residents were publicly demonized by the media and criminalized by the National Guard for daring to raise their voices. For daring to express their discontent at this continued abuse. For daring to demand justice Freddie Gray.

“Your abusive partner doesn’t have a problem with his anger; he has a problem with your anger. One of the basic human rights he takes away from you is the right to be angry with him. No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone…. Then he uses your anger against you to prove what an irrational person you are.”

Lundy BancroftWhy Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

This is how the media manipulated us:

Baltimore’s anger towards America’s crooked judicial system was distorted by the news until the subject of their anger (their abusers: the police) was no longer the focus. The the six police officers murder suspects enjoyed temporary anonymity while CNN happily published Freddie Grey’s rap sheet and looped coverage of young black men stomping out windshields. By diverting attention from the cause of their outrage, Baltimore’s anger became the subject.

manipulation_1499345

When the true cause of Baltimore’s rage was concealed from view and only the violent effects were broadcasted, Baltimore’s justified anger lost it’s justice in the public eye.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is textbook emotional abuse. Many of us sided with the wrong party back in April.

The media conglomerates operating in America (all six of them) may have fooled us, but they aren’t fooling the rest of the world, who have been looking on in horror as our rampant police brutality problem crisis quickly became an international embarrassment. On May 11th, 2015, the UN released a scathing review of the United States.

“Use of excessive force by police was a major part of this year’s UPR, and the fact that we still don’t have a reliable national figure to know how many people are killed by police or what the racial breakdown is of those people is a travesty,” [Alba Morales, Human Rights Watch] said. “A nation as advanced as the U.S. should be able to gather that number.”

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment. (AlJazeera America, 2015)

no comment

When the media is biased (which is always. Facts dribble down through multiple layers of corporate filters before ending up on our television screens) it manipulates public perception. Influencing public opinion to the point where “Six in 10 whites thought people in Baltimore were just looking for an excuse to loot” (The Atlantic, 2015) is textbook emotional abuse and manipulation.

Now let’s move on to financial abuse.

Financial abuse is a method of exerting control over the subject by cutting off financial resources.

Financial abuse includes sabotaging the subject’s attempts to get or keep a job or dragging down credit scores. More aggressive forms include forcibly taking the victim’s money or refusing to provide enough money to subsist on. More subtle forms include periodically breaking or hiding the subject’s belongings (forcing him/her to buy replacements unnecessarily), or demanding that money be spent on the abuser’s wants instead of on the subject’s needs.

Now, let’s break it down with a real-life example, and hopefully we will all have a better idea of the infuriating catch-22 black communities are stuck in:

  1. A black individual in poverty gets a minor fine – say for speeding or driving without a seatbelt. We know that in Missouri, black drivers were 66 percent more likely than white drivers to be stopped. This happens because “80-plus municipal courts and 90-plus municipalities profit from poverty by extracting money from residents for minor infractions such as moving violations, occupancy permit violations, business permit violations and code violations” (Washington Post, 2014). Now, look one paragraph up: Financial abuse involves forcibly taking the victim’s money.fuck you pay me
  2. Because this individual is in poverty, he or she lacks the funds to pay the ticket in a timely manner. When you live paycheck to paycheck, a $90 ticket is the difference between food and electricity. The federal minimum wage has stagnated at $7.25 for the past six years, and minorities are disproportionately concentrated in low-paying jobs. Financial abuse is refusing to provide enough money to subsist on.
  3. This results in a suspended license and a traffic court date. “Defense attorneys in the St. Louis area have come to call these “poverty violations” — driving with a suspended license, expired plates, expired registration and a failure to provide proof of insurance” (Washington Post, 2014). Because many low-wage workers do not have the flexibility to take time off for court dates, or the resources to find alternative transportation, they weigh the risk of being fired against the risk of driving on a suspended license, and choose their job. Financial abuse includes sabotaging the subject’s attempts to get or keep a job.
  4. Missed court dates, outstanding fines, and driving on a suspended license results in an arrest warrant, and this individual is thrown in jail. By the time this person gets out, he or she has probably lost their job, and owes even more money to the municipal courts. In debt and without any source of income, credit scores tank. Financial abuse includes dragging down credit scores.
  5. Now this person who was already in poverty is in deeper debt, with an arrest record that makes it difficult to get a new job, and no way to rectify the situation. This is how the cycle of poverty is both created and perpetuated. “In Calverton Park, for example, about a fourth of the residents live below the poverty line — and 66 percent of the town’s revenue comes from fines issued and collected by its court. In Pine Lawn, which I visited for my original report, nearly a third of residents are below the poverty line, and nearly half the revenue comes from the court. In Normandy, it’s 35 percent below the poverty line and 41 percent revenue from fines, court fees and citations” (Washington Post, 2014) Financial abuse includes demanding that money be spent on the abuser’s wants instead of on the subject’s needs.

protest sign 5

Now tell me the system isn’t rigged. Just try to tell me that racism doesn’t exist, or that financial abuse isn’t a central part of keeping black communities in the hole. I dare you.

So now we’ve covered emotional abuse & manipulation by the media, and financial abuse by the municipal courts. With all of this in mind, it is finally time to talk about the most obvious, openly egregious type of abuse: Physical abuse in the form of police brutality.

The most prominent link between racism and physical abuse is the trait of the abuser to see you as property rather than as a person. The dehumanization of black bodies and the inability to see the humanity of other races, is central to racism.

“Objectification is a critical reason why an abuser tends to get worse over time. As his conscience adapts to one level of cruelty—or violence—he builds to the next. By depersonalizing his partner, the abuser protects himself from the natural human emotions of guilt and empathy, so that he can sleep at night with a clear conscience. He distances himself so far from her humanity that her feelings no longer count, or simply cease to exist. These walls tend to grow over time, so that after a few years in a relationship my clients can reach a point where they feel no more guilt over degrading or threatening their partners than you or I would feel after angrily kicking a stone in the driveway.”
― Lundy BancroftWhy Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

The systematic dehumanization of African Americans by the United States stems most obviously from slavery. But I think most of White America really had no conception of how brutal slavery was until they saw Django Unchained (which honestly was still an understatement), and even then the mental cartwheels people do to dismiss the very relevant fact that America was built on the backs of black slaves continues to amaze me.

amy shumer

10 points for Amy Schumer

Despite the fact that American wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of black families who have never received reparations for their work or suffering, White America continues to view Black America as more unintelligent, unmotivated moochers of the social welfare net.

“In 1990, when first assessed, roughly 65% of whites rated blacks as less hard-working than whites, while just under 60% rated blacks as less intelligent than whites.”(source)

white opinions

Please note that the above graph only stretches from 1990 to 2008. So what if racial attitudes radically changed in the past seven years? …Don’t worry, they haven’t. Most recently,

“Over 3 in 10 white millennials believe blacks to be lazier or less hardworking than whites, and a similar number say lack of motivation is a reason why they are less financially well off as a group. Just under a quarter believes blacks are less intelligent.” (Washington Post, April 2015)

True cognitive dissonance and/or denial at it’s best: Caucasians rely far more often, and far more heavily on our social welfare programs than their black counterparts, yet still have the gall to call them “lazy”.

“…distribution of benefits no longer aligns with the demography of poverty. African-Americans, who make up 22 percent of the poor, receive 14 percent of government benefits, close to their 12 percent population share.

White non-Hispanics, who make up 42 percent of the poor, receive 69 percent of government benefits – again, much closer to their 64 percent population share.”

-(New York Times, 2012)

Or for all you visual people:

“Poor” is defined as income that is 125% of the poverty threshold. Under this definition in 2012 20.8% of American citizens were considered poor.

But I digress. Back to physical abuse.

It is important to recognize that the brutality of slavery was present 150 years ago, and if you are a millennial, some of your great grandparents were alive for that. Three generations. Scars do not heal that quickly.

That means that when you encounter African Americans in your daily life, their great grandparents were dealing with shit like this:

Slave owners used to outfit their workers with "iron bits" or iron masks to keep hungry plantation laborers from eating the cane sugar they were harvesting.

Slave owners used to outfit their workers with “iron bits” or iron masks to keep hungry plantation laborers from eating the cane sugar they were harvesting.

Or this:

A youngster in a Georgia forced labor camp around 1932 is subjected to an ugly form of punishment. – Photo: John Spivak

A youngster in a Georgia forced labor camp around 1932 is subjected to an ugly form of punishment. – Photo: John Spivak (Please note- 1932 is long after the civil war)

That was then, this is now:

Tamir Rice was twelve years old when he was shot in a park within eyesight of his living room. Original reports claimed that police pulled up and repeatedly ordered him to drop his “weapon” (an airsoft gun with the orange indicator taken off). When the above surveillance video surfaced, it became obvious that the responding officers were fucking liars because they shot him less than two seconds after pulling up. This happened in Ohio: An open-carry state.

brown12

Michael Brown was gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. If you think he deserved to be shot for stealing a cigar… I don’t know what to do with you.

crawford22

John Crawford was gunned down inside a Walmart because he was holding an airsoft gun that he had picked up off the shelf inside the store. And again, this was in Ohio, an open carry state. But everybody knows Open Carry laws are only for white people.

trayvon12

And we all know about Trayvon Martin.

George Zimmerman has six mug shots from a spattering of domestic violence charges and gun altercations. He still owns guns.
Trayvon Martin has an obituary.

George Zimmerman has six mug shots from a spattering of domestic violence charges and gun altercations. He still owns guns. Trayvon Martin has an obituary.

I wish I could do every slain individual justice in this blog, but the truth of the matter is there are too many. Which is fucking depressing.

police brutality

Click the image to read more in-depth profiles about these victims of police brutality. The FBI collects statistics on citizen deaths every year submitted by police jurisdictions (it’s voluntary, not a requirement, so…. selection bias much?). They separate these deaths murders into ““Justifiable Homicide by Weapon, Law Enforcement” and… well they actually don’t publish numbers on non-justifiable homicides (murder) by law enforcement. Also, I heard on NPR that the annual FBI statistics reports are complete bullshit, and should be taken with  a grain pound of salt.

 

So how do we break the cycle? In traditionally (tradition, how horrifying) abusive relationships, the woman either successfully escapes, or she dies.

Here’s my solution for social constructs of this nature (sexism, racism, homophobia, etc.): We all have to chip away at the block with our tiny hammers, our individual voices. An ocean is made of a million drops, and it takes all of us to create change. I do it by writing. Other people do it by public speaking. Artists will create thought-provoking pieces, etc. I firmly  believe that opinions are changed not by facts, but emotions. (So while STEM is important, it bothers me that the humanities have gained the reputation of being “useless”)

The Civil War would not have gotten it’s timely momentum if it had not been for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a fictional novel published in 1852 (by a woman! Harriet Beecher Stowe) that allowed people to empathize with slaves in a way that was not possible before, when the vast majority of Americans viewed black people as objects, as property, but certainly not people.

So whatever you can do to speak up, raise awareness, provoke thought, stimulate difficult conversations, just do it (sharing this post counts… I suppose). You may think your talents are useless, but everybody has something to contribute.

This is easily the longest post I’ve ever written, so I’m going to tie it up with a bit of my opening quote from Bancroft: “Teaching equality, teaching a deep respect for all human beings — these are more complicated undertakings, but they are the ones that count.”

Racism and our other social ills that continue to plague us in 2015 can be solved with the simple concept that all people are people (I never thought I would have to say that, but apparently it’s necessary), and every person deserves basic human decency, basic respect.

With the concept of respect, I often hear people say, “You have to earn my respect. Respect is not given, it is earned.”

To which I will say, “Wrong, asshole.”

Respect for another person’s humanity is a baseline requirement if you are a decent person. Nobody should have to earn the right to exist without being dehumanized. Black people deserve to exist without getting shot in the streets, without being profiled as shoplifters every time they step into a store, without people automatically assuming the worst of them. Full stop.

Respect is going to be the oil that greases the gears of our society, currently rusted and crusted up with the ideas of the old, the traditional, the conservative (looking at you, GOP).

I will leave you with this:

“Abuse and respect are diametric opposites: You do not respect someone whom you abuse, and you do not abuse someone whom you respect.”

― Lundy BancroftWhy Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men]

Advertisements

Low Wages are Slowly Strangling the Creative Class

Income inequality is going to be a defining issue of our generation, no doubt. But one issue I think isn’t getting enough attention, possibly if not definitely from ignorance, is the mere existence of the creative class, and what the slow, drawn-out asphyxiation of the creative class really means.

Now, for a lot of people, why would you care about the Creative Class, a Marxist-sounding something you didn’t know exists? In fact,

What is the “Creative Class”?

The creative class, most simply put into words, are the artists, musicians, poets, writers, dancers, sculptors, etc. They can be rich, poor, undiscovered, wildly successful, or complete “failures” (by conventional societal standards). Not unlike runners, there is no requirement or certification to be a “creative” other than actively “doing” your creative thing. It is the restless group of people that cannot rest, cannot find fulfillment, unless they are pursuing their chosen art(s).

little shop of horrosNow, my inspiration for this post came from my good friend Alex, who had invited me to see a rehearsal of Little Shop of Horrors, a musical she’s in (also, I highly recommend Seattle-area folks go see it).

What stuck out to me was that this musical was on Bainbridge Island, a two-hour round-trip ferry ride from Seattle (but the ferry serves beer!).  A 3-hour practice for the cast amounted to a 5-hour time-suck in their days.

Not only that, but this show is unpaid. Well… for the cast at least.

All in all,  it totaled to a small group of highly dedicated artists sacrificing their time, effort, and money (for the commute) to be part of a small musical production.

And the most interesting thing about it? They were all happy. Not just happy. Ecstatic.

One cast member, Shani King, works four jobs: Coffee barista in West Seattle, Old Navy service rep, service person at Sweet Deal on Bainbridge Island, and she teaches dance once a week. “The fact that it takes four jobs to be able to survive, and then to do a show at the same time, is kind of ridiculous,” she says.

Four jobs is definitely ridiculous, but what was even more ridiculous to me was watching her go through a grueling rehearsal, with the knowledge in the back of my head that, unlike me, she’s probably not headed home to sip wine and relax at the end of the night.

So what do I mean when I say the creative class is dying in America?

usefulness of majorWell, something I remember vividly from my college admissions process, and I think still holds true today, is the devaluation of arts degrees. The idea that liberal arts degrees are a “waste of money” or have become “obsolete”. The idea that someone who dedicates oneself to deepening one’s knowledge of the arts is just wasting their time, and potentially a portion of your future paychecks.

But here’s what I always say at parties (and yes, I do say obnoxious shit like this at parties. I don’t know why people invite me anywhere. I really don’t):

The Civil War never would have happened if a fictional book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, had never been written. Because it’s not facts & science that changes minds, it’s irrational emotions. Feelings are what causes world-altering shifts in attitudes & culture.

Likewise, with our current climate change debates, it’s not the facts that prove icebergs are melting, therefore we should care. It’s photography like this, where 35,000 walrus’ need a place to rest in lieu of their preferred lounging areas (ice flows) melting, that are going to change public opinion and mobilize us in ways that a page full of numbers never could.

So when I say that the creative class, is important, you know I damn well mean it.

And when I say the death of the creative class is nothing less than a catastrophe, you know I damn well mean it.

How minimum wage is killing the creative class:

The blue line is annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage worker

The blue line is annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage worker

This subtitle’s meaning will immediately resonate with all creatives, and most likely confuse everyone else.
The creative class is the small subgroup of people who are so drawn to their art, they will die for it, with little to no recognition at all. Compare that to other subgroups that are motivated by fame (celebrities), power (politicians), or money (business people).

Now, for the creative class to actually create, certain things need to happen. For one, they need to not die of starvation, which means basic food & shelter is a must. They also need the flexibility known as “time” to actually create. I’m not sure if you knew this, but creating magnificent works of art & literature actually takes a good chunk of time out of every single day.

Historically, artists used to seek out “sponsors” (also known as patronage) who would support them while they created, and their sponsor was paid back with recognition and status. This system existed so that creatives could have the time & basic resources to refine their art, without being bogged down by pesky concerns such as supporting their basic human needs.

Enter the 40-hour workweek. A challenge, but still do-able.

Enter the stagnant minimum wage in America, that has lost value through inflation, while the prices of food, shelter, education, and other necessities have risen.

Enter the new, mostly American concept of “time debt”, that has come from people having to take multiple, low-paying jobs to pay for basic necessities. This puts such a time-squeeze on an individual, free time, sleep, productivity, and exercise all suffer.

minimum wage rent

Michelangelo probably would not have finished The Last Judgement on the Sistine Chapel if he was taking orders at four different Dunkin Donuts all over town for 70 hours a week, only to get paid barely enough to feed himself. If Michelangelo worked multiple minimum-wage jobs, he probably never would have created much of anything. He would have spent all non-working time commuting, sleeping, and freaking out.

Which is what’s happening to a lot of my creative friends right about now.

little shp of horror

Three talented women, part of the unpaid cast of Little Shop of Horrors

When I asked the cast of Little Shop of Horrors if they ever had to sacrifice pursuing their art just to survive, the answers varied, and were nothing short of amazing.

Alex stays at her waitress job, where her employers regularly violate employees rights (like not posting the schedule until one day before a shift, withholding pay, and charging their servers for their customers’ credit card processing fees), because she’s afraid if she goes to a different restaurant, they won’t give her the same hours that allow her to do musicals at night.

“I have a degree [in the arts], but I haven’t had any steady jobs in this line of work. It sucks because the kind of day jobs you get is coffee, or hospitality. And usually those are the jobs you get minimum wage for. Then taking time off of a minimum wage job to do a show where you get paid nothing is almost impossible. Having a degree in this, and trying to support myself are two completely separate things.”

-Alex Davis-Brazil

Meanwhile, the assistant stage manager, Eugene Price, put it succinctly: “I’ve generally had to make the choice between something that’s going to further my career, or something that’s going to pay me money. Generally, a minimum wage job that is going to pay me enough to live, doesn’t give me enough time to be creative. I’m lucky I have supportive parents, but that’s a luxury” (emphasis mine).

Yes, having supportive parents is a luxury, but it’s become increasingly clear that supportive parents my be a necessity, not just a luxury.

young-living-at-home

So are all Creatives doomed to live in poverty, or worse, with their parents for the rest of their lives?

(Please note: That was a joke. I do not actually think living in poverty is better than living with parents)

There are a few things we can all do. One is to start actually recognizing that the arts are, in fact, very important to society.

For instance, reading fiction actually teaches people how to be more empathetic through the practice of putting themselves in a different characters’ shoes. Photography does not just document the world, it actively changes it. We all can see how the documentary, Blackfish, is changing the public perception of SeaWorld in real-time. Rent, the musical, humanized and de-stigmatized HIV/AIDS, and taught us a powerful history lesson that American schools failed to do.

Another thing we can do is actively encourage the arts, via our wallets.

Yes, I know, nobody likes spending money when you can get things for free. Case in point: Downloading music on the internet. But hey! Tonight is Little Shop of Horrors’ “pay what you can” show. Maybe you should do more things like that. But actually pay. Don’t freeload.

The last thing you can do is – if this applies to your state – fucking vote to raise the minimum wage in the upcoming November midterm elections.  And don’t give me that “bad for jobs, bad for small businesses” bullshit. Just look at SeaTac.

Dress Coded: An Education on (unnecessary) Sexualization

dress-coded-1

When one Illinois middle school cluelessly decided to ban leggings & yoga pants because they were “distracting to the boys”, they probably didn’t have any idea it would be the catalyst to a national conversation about dress codes in school.

I mean, dress codes are like, so un-controversial. Until now.

Now, all sorts of interesting stories are surfacing. Girls wearing the same regulation gym outfits, but the curvier ones are getting dress-coded. Tall girls getting dress-coded for short garments, even though they’re finger-tip length, while short girls seem to not draw the same leg-bearing ire. One girl getting sent home from prom for wearing pants. Another girl was sent home from her homeschool prom because male chaperons said her dress was “causing impure thoughts”…for the teenage boys, of course.

So… Many interesting stories indeed.

The leggings ban irked me immediately for two reasons. The first being that these girls are in middle school, which means they are 11-14. Stop making them out to be devilish little nymphets, you creepy Humbert Humberts. These girls are not wearing yoga pants/leggings to show off the prepubescent shapeliness (ha!) of their backsides. The main reason girls (and adult women!) wear yoga pants is because they are heaven compared to the alternative:

Traditionally “cute”clothing for young women are notoriously restrictive and often painful.

The following images are from IMPRESSION, a photo series that shows what women wear, by the imprints left on their skin .  Here’s what form-fitting jeans look like:

jeans 2 impression jeans impressionjeans 3 impression

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does that look comfortable to you?  Because it looks pretty damn painful to me.

Keep in mind that loose or baggy clothing for girls is neither “popular” nor “attractive” and even borderline socially unacceptable. Professional women: would you show up to the office in a baggy pantsuit? No? Then why would these girls show up to school in baggy jeans?

(This is a bit off topic but…) I really bothers me how schools insist that girls wear bras (this starts at, like, age 8-14 when girls start budding. Many girls and/or their moms have embarrassing stories of female teachers quietly pulling them aside, and delicately suggesting that she get a training bra), but then simultaneously decree that bra straps are inappropriate. This is like insisting all boys must wear socks, but the tops of socks sticking out of the shoes are inappropriate.  It’s just… so arbitrary.

bra 1 impression bra 2 impression

Anyway, back to my point: the (un)comfort of women’s clothing. Obviously girls are going to pick yoga pants/leggings over form-fitting jeans that cut off the blood flow in the hips. It’s not about looking “sexy”. It’s about comfort. To twist this innocent reason around and treat these girls as if they are temptresses is incredibly disrespectful.

The second reason the leggings ban irked me was the “reasoning” behind it.

It’s “distracting to the boys”

Ugh. Every sane person on the internet immediately called bullshit on this incredibly sexist statement. The basic and very valid counterargument:  Girls clothing is not and should not be responsible for boys’ behavior.  I’m actually not going to go too deep into this. I know if you’re reading my blog then you probably understand & agree with the counterargument. I wanted to take this conversation in a bit of a different direction;

One. 

It’s yet another reminder, and reinforcement, that a girl’s appearance is more important, and demands more attention, than her other, non-visible qualities. You know, qualities like intelligence, perseverance, athletic ability, tenacity, creativity, a hard work ethic… attention to those attributes seem fade away rather quickly once an inch of skin is exposed.

Instead, it teaches her to view herself in a sexualized gaze, from an outsider’s point of view. At an increasingly young age, getting dressed in the morning turns from “does teal clash with yellow?” to “is this too much shoulder? Can someone see down this shirt? Would someone be able to look up this skirt on the stairs? What happens when I sit or bend over? I should test that.”

It’s not necessary a bad way of thinking when getting dressed. But it’s a pretty damn insidious sign of something ugly in our society, when middle-school girls are worrying about people looking down their shirts, and adjusting what they wear because of it.

And schools, the institutions that are supposed to be teaching our kids the importance of education, teach the opposite when they pull a girl out of class because her tank top straps are only two inches wide, not the three inches regulation. It doesn’t matter if she’s the valedictorian working towards the Ivy Leagues. If one day her shirt rides up a bit too much (maybe it shrunk unexpectedly in the wash?), she could get sent home to change (perfect attendance award? who cares!).

Two.

Female bodies are not public art.

They are not for your viewing pleasure.

Or viewing displeasure.

Schools are teaching girls, at a very, very young age, that they are on-display, and that is not ok. They’re normalizing some pretty scary behaviors that women must put up with almost every day:

  • receiving unsolicited comments from complete strangers on clothes and/or appearance
  • fielding “suggestions” from others on how dress, apply makeup, or even style hair
  • being forced to change clothes because someone in an authority position demands it
  • experiencing the unwanted & unnecessary sexualization of her body by older persons
  • responding to all of the above with compliance and politeness

Not only that, but for women, the feeling of being watched is unsettling but very common. I feel on-display when I’m waiting for the crosswalk sign to change. I feel on-display when I’m at the gym. I feel on-display at the grocery store… the list could go on. Usually it’s because I see the leers, the quick up-down flick of the eyes, the possible mental-undressing (many guys have told me apparently this is a common, almost knee-jerk mental reaction, to imagine a woman’s clothes off? Idk, let me know in the comment box). Its pretty jarring to hear that some schools have become one of those places that treat girls like they are objects on display.

I think what we’re hearing online is girls expressing that the strange, inconsistent enforcement of the dress codes is sexualizing them against their will. I’m pretty sure every single private schoolgirl has been subjected to some crass “naughty schoolgirl” joke, or unwanted attention, due to their uniforms.

It’s not the girls.

It’s not their uniforms.

It’s the outsider’s gaze sexualizing  them.

Right now schools seem to be doing a really good job of teaching girls being female in public means their bodies are on display for scrutiny. And schools are doing a really bad job of teaching boys that staring is rude (to put it lightly).

Until this changes in schools, I highly doubt the more mature, serious variations of unwanted sexualization – street harassment, sexual assault, and victim-blaming – will ever fully disappear.

All I have to say for now is:

If you’re a teenage girl in high school, it will all be over soon. You will graduate (or exit with grace), and enter the real world where nobody cares if leggings show the shape of your butt, because everybody wears leggings and everybody has butts. And there is nothing inherently sexual with either of those things.

Why You Should Care About Eating Disorder Awareness Week

cover-photo-2

Hi all! Today I’m going to talk about something that strikes very close to home for an unfortunately large number of people: Eating Disorders.
Continue reading

Government of the people, for the people, by the people… no more

Today was the anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

I was listening to NPR, stuck in traffic on the way home, and they said something I found rather funny. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was along the lines of “approval ratings across all areas of the government have never been so low.”

I kind of laughed to myself. Captain Obvious, to rescue! 

No but really, I got this beautiful moment of clarity where all of these snippets of information, facts, anecdotes, and ideas that have been swirling around my head for the past few months/years (my brain is kind of like a snowglobe) all came together.
Continue reading

“Inner Beauty Doesn’t Exist”

Oh lawdy lawd. Ok, many of my blog posts are often prompted by people being assholes, and me explaining exactly what about their behavior makes them crappy human beings. Osmel Sousa, the president of the popular Miss Venezuela beauty pageant, pretty much takes the trophy for crappy human being of the day (because there’s always a new one tomorrow).

The following video, produced by the NY Times, is only about 5 minutes long, but if you don’t feel like watching it, Sousa’s opening statement pretty much sums it up:

“Inner beauty doesn’t exist,” he claims, “it is something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.” (He says this with a really creepy smile on his face, then laughs.)

The first issue with this statement was summed up really well by Erika Nicole Kendall, another blogger whom I admire very much:

“I think it’s pretty f—ing jarring to hear someone say “I say that inner beauty does not exist; it’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.“ They need to justify themselves? As in, their raison d’etre? Their existence? Women who are not “beautiful” are subject to justifying their existence, lest there be no reason for them to exist?”
-Excerpted from “I Say That Inner Beauty Does Not Exist” | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss 

Props to Kendall for calling this guy out on what he’s really trying to say: If a woman is not physically beautiful, then she doesn’t have any value.

What is especially concerning (to me at least) is that this dude is gay, and he does not talk about women this way because he wants to bone them. This is not a sexual power play. No, as a gay man, he thinks “ugly” women have “made up” the concept of inner beauty because to him, women are objects for looking at, period.

To Sousa (and many other people), women serve no other purpose than being ornamental, like a painting, or a vase. And what is the point of an ugly vase? None. An ornament must be beautiful to serve it’s purpose, otherwise it is no longer an ornament – it is an eyesore & will be taken out with the trash.

6853b425061fd557e85cede08d769e53

The rest of the video explores the new trend of Venezuelan mannequins being modified to be super busty, reflecting the increasingly extreme beauty ideals of the country. This trend of mannequins with impossible body proportions is nothing new. But mannequins are also particularly interesting because they literally are woman-ornaments. A mannequin with a less-than perfect body shape is worthless and will be modified and/or thrown out.

And herein lies the scary connection to be made: To Sousa (and people who agree with him) If “inner beauty does not exist”, if traits such as intelligence, compassion, and strength do not matter, and women are merely ornaments to please the eye, there is no difference between a woman and a mannequin. If this does not outrage you right now, leave my blog.

Why do mannequins even matter that much? Much like photoshopped women in magazines, they contribute to social norms of what women should & shouldn’t look like.

Venezuelan mannequins:

American Mannequins:

(by the way, if you walk around to the back of mannequins in America, you can see the clothes are often clamped or pinned to be form-fitting, because the mannequins are thinner than size 0/XS).

Swedish mannequins:

(because Sweden does everything right)

Ok, obviously the notion that “inner beauty doesn’t exist” is complete and utter bullsh*t. This brings me to the second part of this blog post:

Yarrrg Musclezzzz (& Booty)

Our standards of female beauty are changing from heroin-chic to Wonder Woman. Don’t believe me? Google Trends knows – thin is on it’s way out, fit is just getting started.

fitspo-thinspo-trends

Part of this trend is due to a strong resurgence in the feminist movement worldwide, ever since several notable gang rape incidents (selfcontrolselfcontrol don’t fly off the handle about rape right now). Check out any “fitblr’s” Tumblr account, and chances are you’ll see some feminist stuff on it. That’s because fitness & feminism actually go together like salt & pepper. Fit gals and fit dudes understand the mental, physical, and social empowerment that comes with control over one’s body.

Because I have a sociological background, when I started writing for Cody I realized I was in a position of influence, and I could use this influence for the better. That’s why you will never see sexualized fitness content on the Cody blog. I’ve made a point to only use body-positive language on Cody’s social media accounts. Our graphic designer Tasheon also does a really great job of  only using non-sexual, body-positive images & illustrations:

awesomebychoice everyseason girlonfire iplie lifeisasport sissyarealwoman dontbeirondeficient rockoutchalkout truestrength progres_hurts_so_good weightoffshoulders

Another reason this trend is catching on so quick is CrossFit! This is because as CrossFit spreads, more people are exposed to images of strong women, and the more you are exposed to these images, the more you grow to accept it, like it, even want to look like it.

Here’s a short CrossFit video called “Letting Beauty Speak”:


Unlike Sousa & his beauty pageants, CrossFitters understand that beauty is not skin-deep. That being said, imagine what would happen if our mannequins looked like CrossFitters!

I’ve been waiting for the ever-vapid Seventeen or Cosmo magazines to start featuring some of the more conventionally “hot” CrossFit women, like Andrea Ager

or Christmas Abbot

or Camille Leblanc-Bazinet

But then I realized, if Seventeen & Cosmo won’t put athletes like Mckayla Maroney or Venus Williams on their covers, they’re probably not going to put a CrossFitter on their cover. Which is a damn shame. But that’s ok, because Seventeen & Cosmo are insulting pieces of shit that portray women as idiots who are only interested in makeup, clothes, and men, and they can go suck a fat one.

I’ve received some criticisms in the past – “this blog reads like a CrossFit advertisement” or “you’re still focusing on physical standards of beauty” or “stop hating on skinny bodies“… blah blah blah.

These are all people that don’t understand the deep connection between physical fitness & female empowerment. When  I started working out, yes, I was doing it to “look better naked”.  I had no idea that the following would happen:

1) I’ve stopped wearing makeup on a regular basis. Makeup is now reserved for big nights out, or job interviews.

2) I’ve stopped wearing form-fitting clothes, and pretty much my wardrobe consists of baggy jeans & a sweatshirt. Even though my body is now the most smokin’ I’ve ever achieved, I have no desire to show it off.

3) I’ve stopped weighing myself.

4) In short, I’ve stopped seeking outside approval for how I look, because to be honest how I look doesn’t really matter to me anymore.

Y’know what matters? Inner beauty. Intelligence, resilience, strength, creativity, compassion, resourcefulness, spunk, attitude, confidence, dedication… this is what inner beauty is. This is what matters. Not what you look like, but what you can do.

So for every single person out there, man or woman, don’t let any jerk try to tell you that inner beauty doesn’t matter or doesn’t exist. Even if your face got shot off like Chuck Palahniuck’s Invisible Monsters.

5 reasons you should support the fast food workers strike

So I’ve been hearing all sorts of mixed responses – or even more maddening, no responses – to the current fast food workers strike. I am genuinely shocked how few people are passionate about this issue, considering how riled up we were about inequality during the Occupy movement less than a year ago.

I mean, not trying to insult you guys or anything, but you’d have to be either 1) incredibly ignorant or 2) incredibly stupid to not be mad at the unequal wealth distribution of America.

Currently our economic “recovery” looks something like this:

“Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009 to 2012. Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery. From 2009 to 2010, top 1% grew fast and then stagnated from 2010 to 2011. Bottom 99% stagnated both from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, top 1% incomes increased sharply by 19.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 1.0%. In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover.” – Emmanuel Saez Continue reading

Sedated Haze: A Humble Argument to Curb ADHD Stimulant Prescription in the United States

I actually adapted this post from a term paper I wrote for my Sociology of Mental Disorder course at  McGill. Which means all of the information I provide in this is actually super accurate- not just ripped off of any ol’ site in InternetLand.  Yay for accurate information!

Now let’s get into today’s topic: ADHD. First is a brief introduction to how ADHD originated.

ADHD is a scam:

adhd diagnosis 2007 united states map

To me, ADHD is the modern day “hysteria”.

Continue reading

Spread the Strength: The PG Version

This girl is 17 and a CrossFitter. I can pretty much guarantee you she is never going to be mugged.

First of all, hi everyone. It feels like I haven’t blogged about anything sociologically substantial in a while, and I might be a bit rusty so please pardon the potentially poor prose.

Anyhoozle.

Now that I’ve graduated from McGill and no longer have to whittle away the hours of cushy student life by blogging nonsensically about sociological things, what have I been doing with myself?

WELL. That brings me to today’s topic.

My strange, wonderful, and illuminating journey working in the fitness industry.

Continue reading

This Trendy “Strong is the New Skinny” Thing (and what it could mean for the next generation of girls)

This girl is 17 and a CrossFitter. She’s obviously a genius and a badass.

*UPDATE: Here’s a PG-Version of this blog post, for those of you who wish to Spread the Strength among those of innocent ears*

First of all, hi everyone. It feels like I haven’t blogged about anything sociologically substantial in a while, and I might be a bit rusty so please pardon the potentially poor prose.

Anyhoozle.

Now that I’ve graduated from McGill and no longer have to whittle away the hours of cushy student life by blogging nonsensically about sociological things, what have I been doing with myself?

WELL. That brings me to today’s topic.

My strange, wonderful, and illuminating journey working in the fitness industry.

Continue reading

Blog at WordPress.com.