On being peaceful but not pushovers in a Trump Administration

January 20, 2017

I live in downtown DC and have my windows open this Inauguration Day, and I can hear the whirring of helicopter blades ebb and flow as they circle back and forth to monitor protestors. The pops of flash bangs thrown by the police. Sirens have been breezing past all morning and afternoon. I know most of the protests in DC were peaceful, but the one outside my door unfortunately was not.

I have had a lot of ideas about what to write re: Trump, but this seems top of my mind for me right now: Let’s keep our protests against Trump civil. Throwing rocks at police, breaking car windows, and lighting trash cans on fire in the middle of the street threaten to feed Trump’s desire to show how terrible the country is. By lighting that match, folks are quite literally fueling the fire that feeds into the narrative that Trump is spewing to the public, and we don’t need to be doing him any favors. 

It’s not just that protest downtown that count my eye today. I saw an article in The Washington Post today about a 10-year-old boy who was holding a sign with a picture of an aborted fetus, handing out anti-abortion flyers, who was shoved and taunted by protestors. His dad brought him to DC. An anti-Trump protestor ran over and comforted him, saying she didn’t want his experience in DC only to involve hate. What will this impressionable boy leave DC thinking? That those liberal protestors are horrible and cruel, and he is even more confident and resolute in fighting their agenda? That Trump is right about them? These protestors don’t define all protestors we’ll see this weekend, but how can you carry signs that profanely decry Trump as a monster and then adopt his hateful bullying tactics in the next step?

I know not everyone believes in peaceful protest. I know that liberals have been criticized for bringing knives to gun fights, told they are too soft and not willing to do whatever it takes to win. I don’t think liberals can always take the high road, so to speak, if we want to protect progress.

There’s a lot to be angry about as the next administration and Congressional majorities threaten to take away the Affordable Care Act that has helped the poor, the elderly, the extremely sick; to deport 11 million immigrants, some of whom have called the US home for most or all of their lives; to put more guns in schools; to toss violence against women away as unimportant.

Already, the new administration has scrubbed the White House website of pages relating to climate change and LGBT rights. As we watch the administration eliminate the environment and equality as priorities of the president, and as we anticipate further gutting of issues we think are crucial and important, we cannot be pushovers if we want to preserve the progress we’ve made and still can make. We cannot be silent. We cannot do nothing. But the foundation of our fight cannot be violence, unless we want to set that as a precedent – which I sure hope we don’t want to do.

 

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Attacking Carly Fiorina for “interrupting” isn’t a great debate strategy

November 11, 2015

If politeness and etiquette were prerequisites for the presidency, most of the candidates would be disqualified already. Every debate has been filled with name-calling and accusations, as well as an endless (but often entertaining) stream of folks trying to talk over one another. Somehow, however, only Carly Fiorina has been shamed by her running mates—in two different debates, by two different people—for interrupting them.

The 9/16/15 debate (transcript):

KASICH: There’s a —

CHRISTIE: John — I’m not done yet, John.

FIORINA: A track record of leadership is not a game. It is the issue in this election.

CHRISTIE: Stop — and stop playing — and Carly — Carly, listen. You can interrupt everybody else on this stage, you’re not going to interrupt me, OK?

The 11/10/15 debate (transcript):

PAUL: Ronald Reagan was strong, but Ronald Reagan didn’t…

FIORINA: …Ronald Reagan walked away at Reykjavik.

PAUL: …send troops into the Middle East…

FIORINA: …he walked away, he quit talks…

PAUL: …Can I finish…

FIORINA: …when it was time to quit talking…

PAUL: …Can I finish my time?

Could I finish with my time?

TRUMP: Why does she keep interrupting everybody? [laughter]

Terrible. [booing]

These were the only two times in any of the debates so far—Republican, Democrat, undercard, main stage—where someone was called out specifically for interrupting. And let’s be clear: The Republican debates have been overflowing with interruptions and people talking over each other, and moderators have had a tough time trying to actually moderate because of it. With 8-11 candidates on stage desperately trying to communicate their well-practiced talking points to the world, the debates get chaotic.

Interestingly enough, only the woman on stage gets shamed for daring to interrupt the men on stage—this is no coincidence. Women have historically been judged based on how polite they are—hence the term “ladylike”—and candidates are only dishing out jabs that they think will make their opponents look bad or weak. Rude lady = bad president? Chris Christie, even after the September 16 debate, continued talking about how Fiorina interrupted everyone too much. (Note that Chris Christie is now in the undercard debate.)

What surprised me more than Trump’s statement last night, however, was the reaction—folks weren’t having it. Trump got booed. Fiorina stayed silent, gave Trump a laser death stare from her podium, and let the crowd deliver a response better than one she could have. I wouldn’t vote for Trump or Fiorina, but it’s promising to see that attacking a woman for being unladylike isn’t winning people over or proving to be a successful campaign strategy—because in 2015, it shouldn’t be.

Let’s not hit each other, ok?

March 5, 2013

What’s far more troubling than admitting I watched the Vanderpump Rules reunion special yesterday? That the show so quickly glazed over domestic violence. Though in this case, it was female-on-male.

Now, now, now — I’m well aware that 85 percent of domestic violence is perpetrated against women, and oftentimes those violent acts happen in the midst of a relationship. One-third of homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner — that shit isn’t to be taken lightly, and it isn’t to be overshadowed by what I’m about to say.

But, lately I’ve seen a lot of double-standard acceptance of female-on-male violence. In Vanderpump‘s case, Stassi admitted to physically hitting ex-boyfriend Jax during an argument — to the point where she bloodied his nose. If you’ve seen the muscle-bound Jax and the small Stassi, you probably shrugged off her admission as harmless — along with his agreement that he deserved it, a statement far too many women confess sans Jax’s confident, self-assured demeanor.

But I kind of hate that. Self defense aside, I don’t like the public acceptance of this kind of violence. Or maybe I don’t get the public acceptance that a woman isn’t dangerous and can’t inflict actual emotional and physical harm on a man. Or maybe I hate how these interactions trivialize assault and violence — after all, many victims don’t have Jax’s confidence and strength when faced with abuse.

I’ve blogged many a time about male-focused abuse regarding Amber Portwood from Teen Mom and her violent behavior — and yes, once regarding Tool Academy but it’s important to remember. We should label domestic violence as a seriously offensive act, but we can’t be selectively outraged about who the recipient is.

It’s counter productive, even to those who recognize that women are far more disproportionately the victim.

P.S. I still think men should be able to march in Take Back the Night, too.

Manti Te’o’s hoax overshadowing legit deaths of women

January 17, 2013

An important read by one of my favorite writers/bloggers, Irin Carmon, this piece details how the Manti Te’o scandal has overshadowed the death of an actual Notre Dame student — a suicide reportedly tied to intimidation by football players regarding sexual assault allegations.

Media-wise, it’s similar to the recent murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend. Horrific as it was, the way it was spun by many sports outlets was even more horrific — what a terrible tragedy that this football player killed himself, rather than — what a terrible tragedy that this football player murdered his girlfriend and the mother of her child.

And all this Manti Te’o hoopla, mixed with Lance Armstrong nonsense, has likely overshadowed that the autopsy for the Belcher shooting came back a few days ago. His BAC was twice the legal limit, and he had actually been found by police hours earlier sleeping in his idle car. According to Missouri law, they could’ve booked him on driving under the influence. Instead, they let him “go inside a nearby apartment to sleep it off.”

The apartment he wanted to go to was his mistress’s, who he had been with the night before. Instead, he went to a different apartment, slept a few hours, returned home, fought with his girlfriend, and then shot her nine times. Nine.

It’s a terrible disservice to Kasandra Perkins and Lizzy Seeburg that their tragic deaths are overshadowed by a story like this, of an imaginary girlfriend — that they just didn’t have enough shock value to keep people’s attention.

But along the lines of Carmon’s piece — she states “no one should be surprised” by the oversight of Seeburg’s suicide — maybe the saddest part is that these deaths aren’t that shocking considering the circumstances. Football players from a violent game being aggressive and/or violent off the field isn’t much of a stretch. But for some reason, that doesn’t make us any better at predicting the aggressive behavior.

What else can we get better at predicting? Drunk people have poor judgment, so they shouldn’t be let off for drunk driving with just a warning. Offenders will likely offend again, so incidents shouldn’t be quickly dismissed for the sake of a sport. Let’s focus on these cracks in the system — which affect tons of people — instead of one guy’s catfish/ill-fated sob story.

What do NPH and Beyoncé have in common?

January 16, 2013

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if people are homophobic, purposely inflammatory, or just actually dumb. Legit dumb.

Conservative website WND reported last week that Neil Patrick Harris, according to some, must be mocking Christians and pushing his gay agenda by mimicking Tim Tebow’s signature eyeblack in promotional photos for the Super Bowl:

I wonder what agenda Beyoncé was pushing when she did a similar advertisement months ago?:

If you want to create inflammatory news stories to push your own agenda, maybe try to make them a little more logically consistent? This is just plain lazy. And of course, WND made no news of Beyoncé’s ad. 

Wait… or maybe… everyone’s mad because NPH isn’t making a kissy face, aren’t they?

Teen mom waxes her 3 year old’s unibrow, commences unhealthy body image obsession early

January 7, 2013

“I feel like a good mom,” Farrah Abraham told US Weekly after waxing her 3 year old’s unibrow. And then we all tilted our heads to the side quizzically…

Though it’s not entirely surprising that Farrah — who herself has gotten breast implants, a chin implant, and nose job in the span of two years — is obsessed with body image, it’s extremely troubling that she is instilling that obsession in her child at such an early age. 

“I felt bad for her,” Farrah said, calling the decision to wax her kid’s unibrow monumental and implying that it’s somehow life-changing. Well, (1) you should probably feel bad for her because (2) maybe it is life-changing — studies show that moms can influence children’s body image, and going so far out of her way to physically remove a unibrow she obviously felt was unsightly definitely sends a message to Sophia.

Keep in mind Sophia was totally freaked out by the waxing attempt, which was described as “botched,” and Farrah had to tweeze the rest of it while she was sleeping. Call it wrong of me to judge how a parent raises her daughter… buuuuut it’s probably worse for Farrah to traumatize her child, literally making her live the “beauty is pain” mantra so Farrah herself isn’t embarrassed by how Sophia looks.

I feel terrible for lil’ Sophia, as children often mimic behavior that gets them attention from parents — and if what makes Farrah really happy is when Sophia looks a certain way, then Sophia could become obsessed with achieving a body image that’ll make her mother proud. Though maybe Farrah wants to drive that point home early — in which case I’ll be in the kitchen slamming my head in the refrigerator door. 

VAWA and why 2013 is already a lot like 2012

January 7, 2013

In addition to stressing out less and purchasing a cat condo, another big New Year’s resolution is blogging regularly again. And why not? Politicians haven’t resolved to stop screwing over women, so there’s plenty to write about!

While everyone’s focused on falling off the fiscal cliff, I’m worried about the Violence Against Women’s Act non-passage. VAWA has been routinely passed without a hassle since its inception in 1994 (thanks, Joe Biden!), but this year Republicans and Democrats deadlocked on some of the additional provisions. SUBDUE YOUR SHOCK.

VAWA has been really, really, really helpful for survivors of domestic abuse — it helps them find housing in case their residence is compromised by stalking or abuse, provides legal assistance, provides funding for rape crisis centers and hotlines, and works to improve awareness about domestic violence.

So what’s there not to like about a program that educates citizens, law enforcement, and the judicial branch about domestic violence while also providing much needed resources to victims?

One of the criticisms — and pardon me if my brain actually implodes from typing this bullshit nonsense out — is that same-sex couples are not legally recognized by the federal government as couples, so LGBT peoples shouldn’t be covered. Ah, yep, I think my brain melted a little bit because that is just absolutely asinine and illogical — the “w” = women, thought that was pretty clear and inclusive.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) calls it a “side issue” that should be based on how the government decides to categorize same-sex couples. Heaven forbid reality — that same-sex couples can be in abusive relationships — dictate the law so people get help they actually need. 

Also, there’s the proposed law’s expanded jurisdiction to Native American tribes. Rapes among Native American women and the total lack of resources — both legally and socially, in the form of education throughout the community — leave sexual assault scarily as the rule rather than the exception.

Read this article about the topic. It’s troubling that both the DOJ and tribal governments don’t do much to make women feel safe in reporting sexual assault or justice in convicting those who do it.

So… why are we still selectively protecting women’s rights? Just when I’m all excited that birth control is free thanks to Obamacare and Planned Parenthood isn’t going to be erased from the planet by a new president, 2013 serves a swift kick in the ass — and a much-needed reality check that there’s still plenty to be done on the equality front.

But perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope from the last round of elections and all the failed candidates who felt obligated to talk about rape as if it was a blessing/deserved/not that big of a deal. Voters didn’t agree. Voters don’t like violence against women. Maybe it’s time to listen to the constituents?

RHOC: The key to winning over someone’s kids

July 16, 2012

There’s an art to stepping into a family — and by that, I mean that dating someone’s parent is dicey. It’s awkward enough when you’re first meeting someone’s family — their parents, their siblings, their relatives — but meeting someone’s kids is a whole different ballgame. And one preconceived notion that I despise, as the child of divorced parents, is that all kids will automatically dislike their parents’ significant others.

I do think it’s easier for people who meet the kids when they’re young — the older that the kids are, the more attached they probably are to the idea of their parents as a solid couple. You don’t want to be seen as the wrench in the relationship, but, on the other hand, young adults can probably perceive problems in their parents’ relationship and wouldn’t necessary jump to blaming the newbie.

Anyway, this is all spawned from watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and seeing Vicki try to urge a relationship between Brooks, her boyfriend, and her children Brianna and Michael. The way that Brianna describes Brooks — pompous, intrusive, condescending, evasive — are all the exact qualities you don’t want to portray. If ever there was a harsh critic, it’s someone’s kids — you don’t get brownie points for impressing them with your worldliness.

Because really, kids are just looking for their parents to date people who are friendly, funny, and genuine. I think this is who everyone wants to see their friends and family date, but adults often don’t realize that kids 1.) don’t seek an authority figure and will immediately reject someone who tries to adopt that role, and 2.) aren’t impressed by arrogance. It’s not a job interview where you need to brag about yourself to win the employer over — it’s more about sitting back, listening, observing, and feeling out when the time is right to add your two cents.

That kind of sounded harsh but… it’s true. In my experience, I’ll respond far better to someone who is just friendly and not abrasive — people who want to belittle me, tell me what to do, or make obvious attempts to assert their dominance in the food chain? Yeah… not interested. This is what Brianna was saying — families already have these set traditions and routines, so the best way to get on the kids’ good sides? Act like any guest — don’t try to take control; don’t try to rewrite the traditions.

There’s definitely some finesse to finding those spots — when to speak up, when to ask questions, when to take a backseat. But Brooks being more concerned with flaunting his wealth and ownership of Vicki than really getting to know Brianna and trying to organically find a place in their family? That’s not going to rub any of her kids the right way. Be sincere and genuinely nice; understand that it’s not your job to replace anyone; and don’t act sketchy. Brooks? He won’t tell anyone his job. You only get one first impression, and trying to avoid talking about how you make money is an instant red flag… even outside the OC.

So should kids be blamed for not being welcoming enough to newbies? Is it the children who are being stubborn because they don’t want their moms/dads replaced? I don’t think so. I think this is the misconception, but that reality shows these newbies have trouble establishing a space in an already existing family unit. And I get that it’s a tough thing to navigate. But I can assure you that treating kids with disrespect, attitude, and self-centeredness isn’t the proper path. Maybe they’re just trying to make a splash, but try wading into the waters instead of attempting the cannonball… and then bellyflopping.

I’m not saying she’s a slut for being a stripper, but…

March 26, 2012

You don’t have to call someone a slut for your words to be considered slut-shaming. Houston Press writer Richard Connelly, who reports about everything from crime to sports, didn’t say the word “slut” in his 600+ expose on Houston Chronicle reporter Sarah Tressler’s moonlighting as a stripper. But his words spoke for themselves, shaming a woman who dared report on the society page by day and strip by night.

So my question is: So what? Is it a scandal that she spent time in high society among the elite, and then took her clothes for the assumed lower class? (I’m sure rich people don’t go to strip clubs or do anything prsumably dirty! NEVER!!!!) I can see that being a surprise to people — it might be more of a cultural shock in Texas, where I think acting “ladylike” is emphasized more than, say, the Midwest.

She’s also an adult who’s got a right to report, teach as a college professor, and strip if she wants to. I like that this reporter — and probably tons of other people — want to make sure her identity stays defined as primarily one of these things. Because once you admit to voluntarily taking your clothes off for money, or having sex on camera for money, etc., then it’s impossible to be anything else. You’ve dropped a rank in societal standards, it’s unthinkable you’d interact with high-class people — but Richard, you’re right, you never said the word “slut.”

You just downgraded her writing as tasteless and highlighted that her co-workers were furious, complaining that she obviously “flaunted” her stripper money by wearing nice clothes and owning designer purses. I know plenty of people at my office who wear nice clothes and have designer bags — should I be mad that they spent their money on these things, or is it only when it’s stripper money that we should be pissed about what people spend with their own cash?

I have a lot of mixed feelings about shaming women who choose to strip, do porn, etc. Especially when they aren’t actively doing those things anymore, but them just being a part of their past limits women’s access to jobs. I remember a while back that a teacher was fired because she had a porn star past; that Sasha Grey was banned from reading books to children as part of a charitable effort. She doesn’t want to have sex in front of a bunch of first graders. She wants to read them a damn book.

Maybe you don’t like Tressler’s writing style — that’s fine. But I think it’s easy to read between the lines of Richard’s piece to see his disdain for her profession — and her — in what to me seems like an attempt at public humiliation (aka slut-shaming) of some sort. From his update — just calling her choices “interesting” — it seems he might’ve ended up more humiliated.

RHOBH: I’d often say, ‘Just hit me so we can get this over with.’

January 31, 2012

Reality TV shows are often nothing but a cesspool of one or all of the following: cat-fighting, bickering, hooking up, and has-been celebrities (or celebrities who have never made it above the C-list). The reputation that these shows have — that it’s just mindless entertainment — is something I’ve often disputed, especially when it comes to shows like 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and the Real Housewives series. I think this is especially true in tonight’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion special (part one), during which Taylor Armstrong’s abusive relationship with her late husband Russell was discussed in pretty candid detail.

Yes, these vivid descriptions of emotional and physical abuse — coupled with the psychological trauma they cause — were sandwiched between arguments about Lisa calling Adrienne’s dog “Crackpot” instead of “Jackpot,” and debates about who sells stories to tabloids. But what Taylor shared with the world provides an honest look at domestic violence that people need to know about — it’s not as simple as Russell yelling at her or hitting her, and then her leaving. It’s a continuous cycle that is complicated; that pushes people away; that leaves people feeling empty and lost.

“I would often say, ‘Just hit me so we can get this over with,'” Taylor told host Andy Cohen, concerning Russell’s abuse. She explained that it gets to be routine, that it becomes easier not to fight the inevitable rather than make things worse. That she was at such a loss for how to stop the domestic violence, she invited cameras from BravoTV into her home in hopes that their watchful gaze would reduce Russell’s violent behavior. Adrienne commented that she thinks the cameras saved Taylor’s life — I agree.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one-third of female homicide victims were killed by their partner. In 70 to 80 percent of intimate partner homicide cases, the man had a history of abusing the woman. There are 16,800 domestic partner homicides each year — a number higher than the death rate of HIV, emphysema, or gun-related assaults that ended in death. Russell’s rage was so uncontrollable that, according to Taylor’s new memoir, he once told her that he was afraid he was going to kill her.

In the end, the cameras did put pressure on Russell to shape up, as he lamented Bravo’s painting him as a villain during the show’s first season. He blamed the show for slanderously ruining his life, career, and marriage, but more than anything I think he really blamed the show for putting a spotlight on his abusive ways and for publicizing his abusive actions — something he most certainly wanted to keep private.

Her plan was an interesting twist that showcased both her privilege and vulnerability — few women could end abuse by inviting cameras from a reality show inside their homes, yet her struggle was similar to any woman of any class who is dealing with domestic violence — she was trapped in a state of financial insecurity, destroyed self-confidence, and constant fear.

“Some days I still wake up and think, ‘Am I supposed to be doing this, am I supposed to be doing that?’ because I’m used to someone being there and telling me what I can and can’t do … I’m able to make my own decisions now and it’s hard,” Taylor told Andy. Camille chimed in, citing ex-husband Kelsey Grammar’s emotional abuse and controlling nature, and the complexity of this violence really reared its ugly head. You try to please that person, but nothing is good enough, and eventually your own self-image is tarnished by this abuser ingraining his own ideas in your head — that you’re dumb, worthless, and constantly disappointing.

And even more confusing to the ladies was Taylor’s insistence that, after sharing with them details of Russell’s abuse, they come to be friends with him. “I was very confused by it because one moment she’s telling this story that’s horrific to hear … but on the other end she wants us to like him,” Camille said. Lisa described one of the texts she saw from Russell to Taylor, in which Lisa said that “[Russell] called her an f-ing whore to start off with, he called her a piece of shit.”

It’s a tough road to walk — in trying to piece together her marriage, Taylor really couldn’t undo the months and maybe years of confiding she had done, telling her friends about Russell’s violence. She might’ve thought things would be better if Russell felt more welcome around her friends, that maybe even being around her friends more and at more social events could help reduce the violence — no one knows but Taylor. Some of the women took this as evidence of Taylor’s dishonesty, but really it speaks to her really hoping that starting from scratch would provide a different outcome — that her friends and Russell getting along would ease tension and change the abuse. But it was merely trying to put a band-aid in the wrong place, not an attempt to deceive her friends. Perhaps in convincing her friends it wasn’t that bad, she was hoping to suppress the abuse in her own mind, too.

Something Taylor said at the beginning of the episode was very telling: Russell was extremely narcissistic, often telling Taylor how much everyone loved him. This self-importance and ego perhaps drove him to react violently when questioned, to demand control over every aspect of Taylor’s life, to think that Bravo was the reason that his life was tumbling down — not able to see the wrong in his own actions or take any responsibility for them. When it comes to dating, this extreme narcissism is a definite red flag.

And so I’ve been writing about domestic violence for paragraphs and paragraphs, and I know it might not be as scintillating as the gossip about Adrienne’s chef, Bernie, dissing Lisa. But it’s important that this show, the epitome of glitz and glamour, not shy away from these real life problems that people of all classes face. What am amazing, public platform for raising awareness about domestic violence — its complexity, its heartache, its tragedy.

I don’t care if people are attracted by the drama of it all — I just hope they leave the reunion special with more education on the topic. Yes, it’s ridiculous that one of the housewives’ friends owns a pair of $25,000 sunglasses — but it’s also ridiculous that so many women are assaulted and murdered each year by their partners. And I’m glad this realty show is at least introducing this conversation into the world.